And this is where we get to the point where it becomes obvious that Paul is not happy with the church in Corinth. He addresses the issue of a liability culture, which surprisingly, is one that is rampant in our own society. Can you imagine our society if Christians were not allowed to take other Christians to court? In vs.7 Paul says that it is already a defeat to us when we take other Christians to court. The main impetus of his words deals with how will the world see us when we bicker and we fight and we take each other to court? And then, to top it all off, we stand in front of a judge who is not a believer and who ends up deciding our fate and decides what future each of us should hold. Paul says that when Jesus comes back it is not going to be unbelievers who have this power over us, so why would we give that power to them now?
The distinction between Christian and non-Christian in our everyday lives no longer seems to be that much of a concern to us. We don’t just shop at stores run by people that we know are Christians. We don’t just take our cars to be fixed by Christian mechanics. We don’t just go to Christians to cut our hair. We don’t just go to doctors whom we know believe in Jesus Christ. When did we stop making that choice and say any service that a person offers is good enough to me as long as they have the training and the goods that they and I need? The times, they are achanging, and this is one example where Paul’s emphasis on the end times reveals itself to be impractical for the long-term, but absolutely essential for his short-term perspective.
Then Paul, starting in vs.9 lays out a whole slew of immoralities which would prevent someone from inheriting the kingdom of God. One of them is homosexuality, but for some reason that one has been lifted up above the others in our 21st century. That wasn’t the case in Paul’s day. The point is that if we continue in any of these sins then we are turning our back on God. So, if we continue in our sin of greed, or drunkenness, then we do not have a place in the kingdom of God. If we were to rate sins, which we don’t do by the way, greed and stockpiling wealth, is considered tantamount to a man sleeping with a man. That should give all of us pause. Paul makes no distinction in these verses.
Vs.12 has become my mantra and my way of life. I love the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. As Paul states: “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” There is no one in our Christian walk who is holding up the rules to see if we are abiding by them or not. Isn’t it ironic that just as Paul lists a long line of sins that will not be acceptable if we continue in them, he follows it with a line that reminds us that our Christian walk is one of freedom. We can do anything and all things. We can do anything we want. But the key is that what we want, when we have the mind of Christ, ought to be what Jesus wants. There should not be a part of us that wants that which Christ would not want. If we live our lives we should not be pining for the days when we could sin and sin boldly and wish that we could move forward continuing in our sin. Paul says no, all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. We can do all things, but we must be aware of what we do and how it affects those around us and how it affects our witness.
There is a lot in this chapter. Starting at vs.16 you have my argument on chastity before marriage. Fortunately I am speaking from a position of strength because both Stacy and I waited to be together in that way until we were married. Both of us entered that relationship not having been with anyone else, either. The argument that Paul lays out is that when you are with someone in an intimate way that leads to intercourse, that person stays with you for the rest of your life. I’ll never forget a woman that I counseled who was in and out of failed relationships. I told her: stay chaste until you are married again. Every time we would see each other she would have a wry smile on her face and she would tell me that she is following what I recommended. It isn’t the easiest advice for anyone who has been married previously, in their mid to late 30s, but it is the advice that we find in Scripture. It simply makes life so much easier when we just abstain. It just does. You have far fewer ghosts in your closet and you can focus in on the person that you have in your midst. Plus, you know that you are following God’s desires. This probably isn’t appropriate, but at this time this song came to mind: