1 Corinthians 6-10 The Voice (VOICE)
6 Here’s another troubling issue. If you have a grievance against another follower of Jesus, do you have the audacity to bring that brother or sister into the civil courts rather than submitting yourselves to the authority of God’s people? 2 Don’t you know that His people are destined to judge the world? If you have the authority to judge the world, can’t you handle these small matters and render a better judgment than the civil courts? 3 Further, don’t you know that we are destined to judge the heavenly messengers? So if we are to exercise authority in the heavenly realms, can’t we take care of the conflicts that arise in this life? 4 To put it another way, if you are asking the courts to adjudicate your mundane conflicts, aren’t you placing your problems under the authority of judges who have no standing within the church? 5 My words should embarrass you. Is it possible that you have no one among you with the wisdom to mediate between two siblings? 6 So one brother sues another brother in public and drags the dispute before outsiders who have no allegiance to Jesus?
7 The truth is that these public lawsuits cause all of you to lose and lose big. Wouldn’t it be better to be ripped off or defrauded? 8 In fact, you are guilty of ripping off and defrauding your own brothers and sisters, not the other way around.
9-10 Do you need reminding that the unjust have no share in the blessings of the kingdom of God? Do not be misled. A lot of people stand to inherit nothing of God’s coming kingdom, including those whose lives are defined by sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, sexual deviancy, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, and swindling. 11 Some of you used to live in these ways, but you are different now; you have been washed clean, set apart, restored, and set on the right path in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed, by the Spirit of our living God.
In the same way that some seek to reduce Christianity to a philosophy or a set of ideas, others seek to reduce it to a set of rules for living. If true faith is only about eating certain foods, abstaining from others, and avoiding certain practices, then willpower must be more important than the Spirit of God. But following stringent rules is not that easy. Actually, living by willpower is hard—some might say impossible. Paul is preaching about an alternative to a life governed by rules and restrictions, and that’s a life of faith that embraces grace. What Paul is about to describe is a life of freedom that surpasses a life of rule keeping.
12 I can hear some of you saying, “For me, all things are permitted.” But face the facts: all things are not beneficial. So you say, “For me, all things are permitted.” Here’s my response: I will not allow anything to control me. 13 Another chimes in: “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” I suppose so, but a day will come when God will dispense with both food and the stomach. The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord; the Lord is over all, and He cares about your body. 14 God has raised the Lord Jesus from death, but He won’t stop there. His dynamic power will raise us up from the grips of death as well. 15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are members of the Anointed One? So should I take the members of the Anointed One and unite them to a prostitute? This illicit union should never take place! 16 Don’t you understand that when your body is joined with a prostitute, the two of you have become one body? For as it says, “The two come together as one flesh.”[a] 17 But when you are joined with the Lord, you become one spirit with Him. 18 Run from immoral behavior. All other sins are disconnected from the body, but sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. 20 You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God!
Salvation is a costly proposition. You and your body belong to God, so use your body for the work of God, not for selfish pursuits.
7 Now to the topics you raised in your last letter. Some have said, “It is better for a man to abstain from having sex with his wife.” 2 Well, I disagree. Because of our tendency to embrace immoralities, each man should feel free to join together in sexual intimacy with his own wife, and each woman should join with her own husband. 3 Husbands and wives have reciprocal duties. Each husband has the responsibility to meet his wife’s sexual desires, and each wife should do the same for her husband. 4 In marriage neither the husband nor the wife should act as if his or her body is private property—your bodies now belong to one another, and together they are whole. 5 So do not withhold sex from one another, unless both of you have agreed to devote a certain period of time to prayer. When the agreed time is over, come together again so that Satan will not tempt you when you are short on self-control. 6 I am trying to encourage you and give you some wise counsel, so don’t take this advice as a command. 7 I wish that all of you could live as I do, unmarried. But the truth is all people are different, each gifted by God in various and dissimilar ways.
Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians about marriage stands in contrast to the message in Genesis 2, where God declares that it is not good to be alone. There He sculpts woman from the rib of the man: she was molded so that man and woman fit perfectly together. And God blesses marriage as a good and beautiful thing.
So is Paul contradicting the declaration of the Creator God when he suggests that it might be better for some people to choose an unmarried life? Absolutely not! Marriage is a sacred union, but it is possible that many will be able to serve God more fully if they do not have the limitations that come with marriage and family. Paul shares his advice humbly based on his own experience. The tension between the beauty of marriage and the freedom from marital obligations is one we should all explore. As we come to our own conclusions, we must also carry them humbly, remembering that one is not better than the other.
8 To those who are unmarried or widowed, here’s my advice: it is a good thing to stay single as I do. 9 If they do not have self-control, they should go ahead and get married. It is much better to marry than to be obsessed by sexual urges.
10 To those who are married, here’s my command (to be clear, this isn’t merely my opinion; it comes from the teaching of the Lord Jesus): it is not right for a wife to leave her husband. 11 If she does, she must either remain single or reconcile with her husband, but she should not marry someone else. Likewise, the husband should not divorce his wife.
12-13 To everyone else, here’s my counsel (this is not a direct command from the Lord; it is my opinion): if a brother has a wife who does not believe Jesus’ teachings and the truth of His resurrection, he is to stay with her as long as she is willing to live with him. The same is true for any sister; you should not leave your husband even if he has no allegiance to Jesus. 14 Here’s the reason: An unbelieving husband is consecrated by that union—touched by the grace of God through his believing wife—and the same is true when the husband is a man of faith and he’s wed to an unbelieving wife. His wife is consecrated through their union. If this weren’t so, your children wouldn’t be pure; but as it is when faith enters in, God sets apart these children to be used uniquely for His purposes. 15 If the unbelieving spouse decides the marriage is over, then let him or her go; the believing partner is freed from the marital vows because God has called you to peace. 16 Remember that anything is possible, so the life you lead and the love you show under this strain may be what finally liberates your partner.
17 So here is my instruction to all the churches: each must live with the gifts the Lord Jesus grants you and with the call God offers you. 18 When you heard the voice of Jesus, what were your circumstances? Were you living as a circumcised Jew? If so, then don’t try to undo your circumcision. Were you living as if you were an uncircumcised outsider? If so, you don’t need to become a Jew. 19 You see, whether you are circumcised or not—these outward signs aren’t the issue—the way you live out the commands of God is what really matters. 20 It is important for all people to live out faith in the circumstances they know.
The call to faith is not a call to abandon your life, family, neighborhood, and culture. We must play with the hand God deals us, not look for a new deck. He works through faith to redeem broken lives and wasted years, not to provide a change of scenery. Even in the worst circumstances, faith can change the believer from the inside.
21 Did you hear God’s voice while you were a slave? Don’t be concerned. (But if the opportunity comes to gain your freedom, then take it.) 22 For the slave who hears the Lord’s call is set free to belong to the Lord. In the same way, the so-called free person is called to become a slave of the Anointed One. 23 A high price has been paid for your freedom, so don’t devalue God’s investment by becoming a slave to people. 24 My brothers and sisters, each of you should remain in whatever external circumstances you were in when God called you.
25 Now when it comes to unmarried young women, I do not have a command from our Lord. The best I can do is to give you my advice as a trustworthy brother who knows the Lord’s mercy well. 26 Because of the challenging times we live in, I think the best plan is to stay as you are. 27 If you are married, don’t divorce. If you are single, there is no need to get married. 28 But if you decide to get married, this is not a sin; there is nothing wrong with a young woman taking a husband, but know that marriage is not easy and those who marry will face hard times. I am only trying to protect you. 29 But hear what I say, brothers and sisters: the time is short and growing shorter. So for the time remaining, even if you have wives, live with the undivided focus of those who do not have them. 30 Those who cry should live as those who have no tears. Those who rejoice should live as those who have no pleasure. Those who buy things should live as those who do not possess anything. 31 If you make use of this rebellious and broken world, live as if you have no use for it—because the form of this world is fading away.
32 My primary desire is for you to be free from the worries that plague humanity. A single man can focus on the things of the Lord and how to please the Lord, 33 but a married man has to worry about the details of the here and now and how to please his wife. 34 A married man will always have divided loyalties. The same idea is true for a young unmarried woman. She concerns herself only with the work of the Lord and how to dedicate herself entirely, body and spirit, to her Lord. On the other hand, a married woman has vast responsibilities for her family and a desire to please her husband. 35 I am not trying to give you more rules and regulations. I only want to give you advice that is fitting and helpful. I want to help you live lives of faithful devotion to the Lord without any distraction.
36 But I have this advice for every single man: If anyone thinks he is behaving badly toward his fiancée, if his desires prove to be too much for him, and if he feels they ought to marry, then he should do what he wants; it is not wrong to marry her. It is better that we let men and women in this situation do as they wish and get married. 37 If a man has no compulsion and chooses not to marry his fiancée, but commits himself to live a celibate life for the sake of following God and has the strength to live out his conviction, then he is doing a good thing. 38 So those who marry do a good thing, and they will share in a holy blessing; those who do not marry do an even better thing because they are part of an even greater blessing in the service of God.
39 A wife should stay by her husband’s side all of his life. But if he dies, she is free to marry any man she wishes as long as it is in the Lord. 40 You can likely guess that in my opinion this woman would be better off to remain single, and I think that I have this insight from God’s Spirit.
8 As to the concern of eating food dedicated to idols: we know that all of us have knowledge, but knowledge can be risky. Knowledge promotes overconfidence and worse arrogance, but charity of the heart (love, that is) looks to build up others. 2 Just because a person presumes to have some bit of knowledge, that person doesn’t necessarily have the right kind of knowledge. 3 But if someone loves God, it is certain that God has already known that one.
4 So to address your concerns about eating food offered to idols, let me start with what we know. An idol is essentially nothing, as there is no other God but the One. 5 And even if the majority believes there are many so-called gods in heaven and on earth (certainly many worship such “gods” and “lords”), this is not our view. 6 For us, there is one God, the Father who is the ultimate source of all things and the goal of our lives. And there is one Lord—Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King; through Him all things were created, and by Him we are redeemed.
7 But this knowledge is not in everyone. Up until now, some have been so familiar with idols and what goes on in the temples that when they eat meat that has been offered first to some idol, their weak consciences are polluted. This is the issue. 8 Again, here’s what we know: what we eat will not bring us closer to God—we gain nothing in feasting and lose nothing by fasting. 9 Now let me warn you: don’t let your newfound liberty cause those who don’t know this to fall face-first. 10 Let’s say a person (someone who knows of Jesus) sees you eating in the temple of an idol; and because the person with a weaker conscience is still unsure of things, he becomes confident, follows your lead, and eats idol food. 11 Now, because of your knowledge on display in your conduct, the weaker brother or sister—for whom the Anointed One died—is destroyed! Ruined! 12 What’s more, by living according to your knowledge, you have sinned against these brothers and sisters and wounded their weak consciences—and because you sinned against them, you have sinned against the Anointed One, the Liberating King.
13 So if any type of food is an issue that causes my brothers and sisters to fall away from God, then God forbid I should ever eat it again so that I would never be the crack, the rise, or the rock on the road that causes them to stumble.
Meat left over from pagan temple sacrifices was sold daily in the market. It was about the only option available for those who didn’t raise their own livestock. Paul knows that idols are nothing really because there is only one God, but another brother thinks he is engaging in a heinous act and supporting a pagan temple by eating food that comes from a pagan sacrifice. So what is a believer to do? Well, it is not a matter of knowledge: Who’s right? Who’s wrong? It’s a matter of love. Paul says that he has the right to eat the meat, but that he gladly gives up that right for the sake of the other brother. Paul limits his freedom out of love for the Corinthians.
9 Am I not truly free? Am I not an emissary[b] of the Liberating King? Have I not personally encountered Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work, my mission in the Lord? 2 Even if others don’t recognize that I am His emissary,[c] at least you do because you are the seal, the living proof that the Lord commissioned me to be His representative.
3 Let me speak in my own defense against those keeping themselves busy picking me apart. 4 Have we lost the right to eat and drink? 5 Have we lost the right to bring along our wives, our sisters in Jesus? Other emissaries travel with their wives, and so do the brothers of our Lord, not to mention Cephas. 6 Is it just Barnabas and I who have lost the right to earn a living? 7 Is a soldier in combat required to pay his own salary? Who would plant a vineyard and not enjoy one grape from it? Who would care for and nurture a flock but never taste the fresh milk?
8 These ideas aren’t based on merely human notions; the law says these same things. 9 In Moses’ law, it is written: “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out your grain.”[d] Is God’s concern here limited to oxen, 10 or does He speak here ultimately for our benefit? These things were written for us, so as the plowman plows and the worker gathers, they can labor with the hopeful expectation that they, too, will share in the good harvest. 11 The same principle applies here: Is it too much to ask that we would be compensated materially for planting life- and world-changing spiritual realities? 12 If you have rightfully supported others, shouldn’t we deserve your support even more?
But we have never insisted on this right; instead, we would rather put up with anything than to put some obstacle in the way that prevents even one person from experiencing the good news of the Anointed One. 13 Perhaps it has escaped your notice that leaders and priests of the temple make their livings off the temple and that those who tend the altar eat their dinners from part of the sacrifices. 14 So it shouldn’t be a stretch that the Lord has arranged for preachers of the gospel to make a living by those who have embraced and been liberated by the gospel.
Paul works hard. He travels the known world starting new churches and writes letters instructing other churches. Simultaneously, he makes and sells tents to fund his basic needs and missionary travels. Would Paul’s time be better spent training young pastors or preaching to a group of church leaders rather than making tents? By giving his churches his service for free, is he doing a disservice to those who will serve these churches in the future and have families to care for?
15 Despite what I’ve said here, I have never staked a claim for such things, and I have no intention to start now; that’s not why I’m writing. I would rather die than have anyone (including me) invalidate my right to boast. 16 You see, if I preach the good news, it’s nothing to brag about. This urgency, this necessity has been laid on me. In fact, if I were to stop sharing this good news, I’d be in big trouble. 17 You see, my story is different. I didn’t volunteer for this. Had I volunteered to preach the good news, then I would deserve a wage, a reward, or something. But I didn’t choose this. God chose me and entrusted me with this mission. 18 You’re looking for the catch. I know you’re wondering, “What reward is he talking about?” My reward, besides being with you and knowing you, is sharing the good news of the Anointed One with you free and clear. That means I don’t insist on all my rights for support in the good news; 19 that also means that I am free of obligations to all people. And, even though no one (except Jesus) owns me, I have become a slave by my own free will to everyone in hopes that I would gather more believers. 20 When around Jews, I emphasize my Jewishness in order to win them over. When around those who live strictly under the law, I live by its regulations—even though I have a different perspective on the law now—in order to win them over. 21 In the same way, I’ve made a life outside the law to gather those who live outside the law (although I personally abide by and live under the Anointed One’s law). 22 I’ve been broken, lost, depressed, oppressed, and weak that I might find favor and gain the weak. I’m flexible, adaptable, and able to do and be whatever is needed for all kinds of people so that in the end I can use every means at my disposal to offer them salvation. 23 I do it all for the gospel and for the hope that I may participate with everyone who is blessed by the proclamation of the good news.
24 We all know that when there’s a race, all the runners bolt for the finish line, but only one will take the prize. When you run, run for the prize! 25 Athletes in training are very strict with themselves, exercising self-control over desires, and for what? For a wreath that soon withers or is crushed or simply forgotten. That is not our race. We run for the crown that we will wear for eternity. 26 So I don’t run aimlessly. I don’t let my eyes drift off the finish line. When I box, I don’t throw punches in the air. 27 I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after all this, after I have brought the gospel to others, I will still be qualified to win the prize.
10 I wouldn’t want you to be ignorant of our history, brothers and sisters. Our ancestors were once safeguarded under a miraculous cloud in the wilderness and brought safely through the sea. 2 Enveloped in water by cloud and by sea, they were, you might say, ritually cleansed into Moses through baptism.[e] 3 Together they were sustained supernaturally: they all ate the same spiritual food, manna; 4 and they all drank the same spiritual water, flowing from a spiritual rock that was always with them, for the rock was the Anointed One, our Liberating King. 5 Despite all of this, they were punished in the wilderness because God was unhappy with most of them.
6 Look at what happened to them as an example; it’s right there in the Scriptures so that we won’t make the same mistakes and hunger after evil as they did. So here’s my advice: 7 don’t degrade yourselves by worshiping anything less than the living God as some of them did. Remember it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and then rose up in dance and play.”[f] 8 We must be careful not to engage in sexual sins as some of them did. In one day, 23,000 died because of sin.[g] 9 None of us must test the limits of the Lord’s patience. Some of the Israelites did, and serpents bit them and killed them. 10 You need to stop your groaning and whining. Remember the story. Some of them complained, and the messenger of death came for them and destroyed them. 11 All these things happened for a reason: to sound a warning. They were written down and passed down to us to teach us. They were meant especially for us because the beginning of the end is happening in our time. 12 So let even the most confident believers remember their examples and be very careful not to fall as some of them did.
One of the strengths of the Jewish people is their corporate identity that comes from belonging to a unique, suffering people deeply loved by God. The tendency for the new, non-Jewish believers may be to create a new identity among themselves because they lack the sense of belonging shared by Israel’s descendants. A new day is dawning, a day when all may come to God regardless of ethnicity, locale, or social class. Believers in Corinth are not part of a new movement; they are a fresh expression of the historic movement of God.
The twenty-first century church needs to hear this truth today as much as the church in Corinth did two millennia ago. The world has changed drastically since the times of Abraham, David, John the Baptist, and even Martin Luther. In the midst of radical economic and technological advances, some within the church are embracing new or contemporary practices and regarding them as somehow superior to ancient and historic practices. Paul is challenging this idea and calling all believers to see themselves as a part of the local, global, and historic church.
13 Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward. 14 So then, my beloved friends, run from idolatry in any form. 15 As wise as I know you are, understand clearly what I am saying and determine the right course of action. 16 When we give thanks and share the cup of blessing, are we not sharing in the blood of the Anointed One? When we give thanks and break bread, are we not sharing in His body? 17 Because there is one bread, we, though many, are also one body since we all share one bread. 18 Look no further than Israel and the temple practices, and you’ll see what I mean. Isn’t it true that those who eat sacrificial foods are communing at the altar, sharing its benefits? 19 So what does all this mean? I’m not suggesting that idol food itself has any special qualities or that an idol itself possesses any special powers, 20 but I am saying that the outsiders’ sacrifices are actually offered to demons, not to God. So if you feast upon this food, you are feasting with demons—I don’t want you involved with demons! 21 You can’t hold the holy cup of the Lord in one hand and the cup of demons in the other. You can’t share in the Lord’s table while picking off the altar of demons. 22 Are we trying to provoke the Lord Jesus? Do we think it’s a good idea to stir up His jealousy? Do we have ridiculous delusions about matching or even surpassing His power?
23 There’s a slogan often quoted on matters like this: “All things are permitted.” Yes, but not all things are beneficial. “All things are permitted,” they say. Yes, but not all things build up and strengthen others in the body. 24 We should stop looking out for our own interests and instead focus on the people living and breathing around us. 25 Feel free to eat any meat sold in the market without your conscience raising questions about scruples 26 because “the earth and all that’s upon it belong to the Lord.”[h]
Paul’s instruction on this matter is clear: believers should give up their rights and freedoms for the sake of others. This is the essence of sacrifice. This is what Jesus did. This is what Paul does. Otherwise, community becomes impossible. But no state or church authority should force compliance; it must arise from a heart of love and a disposition that puts the needs of others first.
27 So if some unbelievers invite you to dinner and you want to go, feel free to eat whatever they offer you without raising questions about conscience. 28-29 But if someone says, “This is meat from the temple altar, a sacrifice to god so-and-so,” then do not eat it. Not so much because of your own conscience [because the earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord],[i] but out of consideration for the conscience of the other fellow who told you about it. So you ask, “Why should I give up my freedom to accommodate the scruples of another?” 30 or, “If I am eating with gratitude to God, why am I insulted for eating food that I have properly given thanks for?” These are good questions.
31 Whatever you do—whether you eat or drink or not—do it all to the glory of God! 32 Do not offend Jews or Greeks or any part of the church of God for that matter. 33 Consider my example: I strive to please all people in all my actions and words—but don’t think I am in this for myself—their rescued souls are the only profit.
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