Work in the Lord

1Corinthians 9:1-4 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not you my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are you in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? 

‘Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not you my work in the Lord?’ There were some in Corinth who questioned Paul’s apostleship (9:1-3).

‘Apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not you my work in the Lord.’ Nine arguments proving Paul’s apostleship: His claim of being an apostle (9:1). His claim to freedom from all secular and religious bondage, enabling him to be completely devoted to the apostleship (9:1). His claim of seeing Jesus (9:1; 15:8). The very existence of the Corinthian congregation and their conversion from heathenism proved his apostleship (9:1-2; Acts 18:1-28). His consecration to abnormal human living so as to preach (9:3-6). His unselfish devotion to the apostleship without pay (9:7-15). His divine obligation to fulfil his call to the apostleship (9:16-18). His devoted service to all people to win them to the gospel (9:19-23). His qualifications for the apostleship and the Christian race (9:24-27).

‘Seal’ [Greek: sphragis] It was a figure cut in stone and set in a ring by which letters of authority were stamped. Greeks excelled in this kind of engraving. Paul used this figure to express the fact that their own conversion was proof of his apostolic authority.

‘Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goes a warfare any time at his own charges? who plants a vineyard, and eats not of the fruit thereof? or who feeds a flock, and eats not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or said not the law the same also?’ Have we not power to eat and drink at the expense of the congregations we have founded? If others receive your support, are we not worthy also of support? We have not used this right as others (9:12-15). Paul supported himself partly by working while starting the Thessalonians’ congregation and partly through help from Philippi (2Thess. 3:7-9). He refers to their gift as a sweet aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” This promise is still true to those who are in Christ and who are faithful to God in tithing’s as the Philippians were (Php. 4:14-18). Imagine being a partaker of all that Paul has sown through his work for God in the lives of the congregations where he laboured as well as being the author of no less than 14 books of the New Testament (Romans to Hebrew).

Liberty .. Become A Stumbling Block

1Corinthians 8:8-13 But meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which has knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend. 

‘Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.’ Take heed that you do not attend such feasts to idols even though you are convinced that an idol is nothing. This liberty may cause another to stumble who still believes that idols are something very real. He does not have your knowledge so he will commit sin if he follows your example (8:9-13).

‘Weak’ [Greek: asthenes] without strength (Rom. 5:6) weak (Matt. 26:41; Mark 14:38; 1Cor. 1:27; 4:10; 8:7, 10; 9:22; 11:30; 2Cor. 10:10; Gal. 4:9; 1Thess. 5:14; 1Pet. 3:7); weakness (1Cor. 1:25; Heb. 7:18); feeble (1Cor. 12:22); impotent (Acts 4:9); and sick (Matt. 25:39, 43, 44; Luke 10:9; Acts 5:15-16). Here it means weak in the faith, not diseased, as in many other places.

‘Emboldened’ [Greek: oikodomeo] to build up, as in 1Corinthians 8:1. Such an example will build up the weak brother to follow the practice of the strong, whereas the act of liberty will cause his edifice to come tumbling down and he will perish (8:11).

‘Perish’ [Greek: apollumi] to destroy, perish, or be lost, as in Matthew 10:28; to kill (Matt. 2:13; 12:14); torment (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24); mar (Mark 2:22); lose (Matt. 10:6, 39, 42); be lost (John 17:12; 2Cor. 4:3); perish or die (Matt. 8:25); and to ruin (Matt. 9:17), but never to annihilate.

‘But when you sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.’ By causing a brother to be lost you sin against Christ and defeat the purpose of His sacrificial death.

‘Wound’ [Greek: tupto] to strike or smite the heart (8:12); to beat (Luke 12:45; 22:64; Acts 18:17; 21:32); and to smite (Matt. 24:49; 27:30; Mark 15:19; Luke 6:29; 18:13; 23:48; Acts 23:2-3). ‘Offend’ [Greek: skandalizo] to cast a snare before one so as to destroy him (8:13; Rom. 14:21; 2Cor. 11:29; Matt. 5:29-30; 18:6-9).

One God

1Corinthians 8:4-7 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 

‘As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.’ Two schools, the Karaites and Traditionists, caused controversy amongst the early Christians. The Karaites held to the letter of the Jewish law, teaching that it was unlawful to receive any benefit from heathen worship or from anything that had been offered to an idol. It was unlawful to buy or sell an idol or meats offered to idols. The Traditionists maintained that they could use such meat provided that the sign of the idol was not stamped upon it. A sign could be placed upon the animal before it was sacrificed to the idol, such as gilded horns and hoofs, garlands, etc. When it was killed and sold in the shop such marks could not be seen so the Karaites had scrupled about all meat not knowing what had been sacrificed to idols or killed for common use. Those who had knowledge that idols and meats offered to them meant nothing had any scruple against buying and using such meat.

‘Whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many).’ Not only images, but the sun, moon, stars, oceans, rivers, trees and all other things in creation were used as gods by the heathen.

‘One God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.’ Here is another indisputable reference to the fact that God the Father is one person and Jesus Christ the Son of the Father is another person. This no more excludes Jesus from the Godhead than it excludes the Father from Lordship. Both are God and Lord (John 1:1; 1Jn. 5:7).

‘For some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.’ Some Jews held to certain rites of the law and some Gentiles held to certain heathen rites when they accepted Christianity. All these differences had to be dealt with and true knowledge gained before perfect harmony between converts could be maintained. Hence, the sound advice in 1Corinthians 8:1-13; 10:16-33; Colossians 2:14-17 and Romans 14:1-15:3. ‘Conscience’ [Greek: suneidesis] conviction or being conscious of a custom. Some had done this all their lives and still regarded sacrifices to idols as real acts of worship, not having true knowledge that idols were nothing. For such to take part in eating meat offered to an idol was to defile the conscience.

Knowledge Puffs Up

1Corinthians 8:1-3 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies. And if any man think that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 

‘Now as touching things offered unto idols’ – Idolatry was the next question the Corinthians asked advice about from Paul.

Thirteen main arguments of Paul: Knowledge is fundamental (8:1-3). Idols are not real gods (8:4-5). There is but one God (8:4-6). People, not idols, are of God (8:6). All people do not have knowledge (8:7). Problems arise from ignorance and a weak conscience (8:7). Meats being offered to idols do not defile the meats themselves (8:8). Meats do not make any difference in our relationship to God (8:8). Knowledge and liberty can become stumbling blocks to the weak (8:9). The example of the strong could cause the weak to commit sin (8:10). Persons thus emboldened to commit sin will perish regardless of Christ’s death for them (8:11). By causing weak brothers to perish, the strong also commit sin (8:12). The strong must set the proper example for the weak to save themselves as well as the weak (8:13).

‘We know that we all have knowledge.’ The idea here is that we who are converted to Christianity have sufficient knowledge concerning idols and idol worship. We also know that we are not bound by Jewish rites and ceremonies, but some may carry their knowledge and liberty too far and do that which is not best for the cause of Christ.

‘Knowledge’ – the Corinthians were puffed up by their knowledge and liberty in Christ and condemned others. It made them bold, rash, and careless regarding the consciences of others not enlightened.

‘Puffed up’ [Greek: phusioo] puffed up or proud (4:6, 18-19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). So many people become full of themselves as they gain knowledge on certain things – proud people are an abomination to God for their knowledge fills them only with pride and not with wisdom (1Cor. 1-3). Knowledge of the Word of God also puffs up, because without implementing the truths and obeying the commands, your faith is of no value and your knowledge is only knowledge and not wisdom (Jas. 1:19-27).

‘Charity edifies’ – Love builds up. It has no quality to puff up or tear down as does knowledge. It can only be constructive since it is of God (13:1-13). ‘And if any man think that he knows any thing, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.’ The person who acts in a rash, proud way knows nothing as he ought to know. If he torments his brother’s weak and tender conscience with his food and conduct he does not love God or his brother as he should (Matt. 22:36-40).

Let Them Marry

1Corinthians 7:36-40 But if any man think that he behave himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinned not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that gives her not in marriage does better. The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. 

‘Uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sins not: let them marry.’ In the early times among both Jews and Christians the daughters were wholly in the power of the father, so that he might give them in marriage or bind them to perpetual virginity. If the father had devoted his daughter to perpetual virginity, and afterwards found that she had her affection centred upon a man, being strongly inclined to marry, he could change his plans regarding her virginity and give her in marriage at any time, even after the flower of her age. He would not be committing sin by changing his plans for her. ‘His virgin’ – this will be his virgin daughter, not a sweetheart.

‘If she pass the flower of her age.’ If she is of full age to marry, which was at a very young age as was the Eastern culture for women.

‘And need so require’ – If she wants to get married instead of being a perpetual virgin. Sometimes the conditions of 1Corinthians 7:8-9 enter into the picture.

‘Let him do what he will, he sinned not: let them marry.’ Let the father of the virgin do what he knows is best for his daughter under the circumstances, regardless of how he has already planned her life. He is free from all former plans and vows.

‘Nevertheless he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.’ If the father finds it unnecessary to change his plans, it being unnecessary to betroth his virgin daughter, because of her being inclined not to marry and wanting to consecrate both body and spirit, as in 1Corinthians 7:34, then let him keep his daughter from marriage.

‘So then he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that gives her not in marriage does better.’ This explains 1Corinthians 7:36-37 and proves that it is a father who gives or does not give his virgin daughter in marriage. ‘Wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.’ Evidently this verse is in answer to a question of the Corinthians about a woman whose husband was dead. Should she remarry? Paul gave the Christian law on this and laid down a restriction that she remarries only a Christian man, not a heathen. He then gave the advice that she would be happier if she remained single in view of the present conditions in the world for Christians (7:40). Paul by no means contended for celibacy, but gave sound advice for the present distress.

Without Carefulness

1Corinthians 7:32-35 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married cares 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 cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares 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 you may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 

‘Without carefulness’ – Carefulness is a characteristic of being cautious, thoughtful, or prudent. When you write “fragile” on a package, you’re hoping it will be handled with care. Acting without thinking things through is carelessness. You can think of carelessness as negligence, a failure to pay close attention or carefully consider the possible ramifications of your actions. Paul is warning against such an attitude that can turn out disastrous.

‘He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord.’ The single man or woman can attend to the things of the Lord without distraction (7:32, 34).

‘He that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.’ The married man or woman has many responsibilities in caring for their family and household (7:33-34).

‘Holy’ [Greek: hagios] devoted; holy; pure. Here it means that she may be devoted to God and pure in both body and spirit so that she may attend to the things of God without distraction (7:34-35). ‘I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you.’ Paul gives a warning that will benefit those who fall in the noted categories and not to ensnare them. This is what a godly warning should consist of, it must be for the hearer’s benefit and not something that will entrap them.

Trouble in the Flesh

1Corinthians 7:25-31 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that has 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. Are thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Are thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou have not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains, 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; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away. 

‘Virgins’ [Greek: parthenos] a pure, unmarried young woman. This was another subject that the Corinthians had asked Paul about.

‘That this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.’ Paul’s advice here was for the present distress or persecutions of Christians. They were at the mercy of their enemies with no state protection as we have today. On this account it would be better for unmarried persons to remain single.

‘Are thou bound unto a wife? … Are thou loosed from a wife?’ This means to be married (bound) or divorced (loosed) from a wife or husband on legal and scriptural grounds. Because of the “present distress” of that day the advice was: “seek not a wife;” but if you do marry you have not sinned (7:27-28).

‘Time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none …’ this is the 9th New Testament prophecy in 1Corinthians (verses 29-31). This predicts the immediate persecution of Christians which Nero was then preparing.

‘Trouble in the flesh’ most marriages are not pleasant or easy because of the partners’ selfishness or unsaved state where everyone today only lives for themselves without consideration for others. Because of impending persecutions: Let all people be without anxiety concerning families, property, and the world in general (7:32-33). Let the married live as though not married (7:29). Let those who weep act as though they wept not (7:30). Let those who rejoice act as though they did not rejoice. Let those who buy live as though they did not possess. Let those who use this world make proper use of it, for the very fashion of it will soon pass away (7:31; 1Jn. 2:17). The way rituals and rites are done on earth will pass away and have no eternal value (1Jn. 2:15-17).

Live as You Are Called

1Corinthians 7:17-24 But as God has distributed to every man, as the Lord has called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. 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 commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Are thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou may 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. You are bought with a price; be not you the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. 

‘Let him not become uncircumcised.’ Let no one try to abolish the sign of the old covenant he bears in his flesh. The Corinthians have also asked Paul about circumcision, so here he answers their questions on this subject (7:18-20).

‘Let him not be circumcised.’ Let no man submit to circumcision as something necessary to salvation.

‘Are thou called being a servant?’ Here Paul answers their questions as to the responsibility of Christian slaves.

‘Care not for it: but if thou maybe made free, use it rather.’ Being a slave will not hinder your being a Christian, but if you can become free, prefer freedom to slavery and use your freedom to serve Christ. A slave could be freed by the consent of his master; by purchasing his own freedom; or by someone else paying for his freedom. In some ages masters thought that by freeing a slave one would gain merit for his soul’s salvation.

‘Freeman’ [Greek: apeleutheros] absolutely free. A much stronger word than in 1Corinthians 7:21. ‘You are bought with a price; be not you the servants of men.’ This verse means that if you do become free from slavery, you should never sell yourself again as the slave of man. Sometimes we allow slavery from others, whether a boss, family member or we become slaves to things that eat up our time and money (2Pet. 2:19).

Called Us to Peace

1Corinthians 7:12-16 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother has a wife that believes not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which has an husband that believes 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 husband: 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 has called us to peace. For what know thou, O wife, whether thou shall save thy husband? or how know thou, O man, whether thou shall save thy wife? 

‘Let her not leave him’ – That men and women have complete equal rights is clear in all Scripture (7:2-5, 10-16, 27-40; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).

‘Sanctified’ [Greek: hagiazo] Here it simply means that the unbeliever, by virtue of being one flesh with a Christian, is not considered living in an unlawful relationship. It also refers to the spiritual influence and power the Christian holds over the unbelieving companion. It could not mean that the Christian could save the soul of the unbeliever. Should the sanctification referred to here not be allowed, the children would be considered ceremonially unclean, not to be received by Christians or given any rights and privileges of Christians. Children also qualify for God’s provision – which includes protection -because of the one saved parent.

‘Unclean; but now are they holy.’ Jews considered any child born out of holiness if born of parents who were not proselytes at the time of his birth, even though afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered children of heathen born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth of their children. All heathen children were considered unclean by Jews; and all their own children holy. Heathen mothers went through certain ceremonies to idols and children were consecrated to the goddess Statina. Children of Christians came into the world without these impure and unhallowed heathen rites and were consecrated to God. This is what the apostle alludes to here. ‘If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace.’ Here we have another legal and scriptural reason for divorce and remarriage. If the unbeliever refuses to live with a wife or husband because of Christianity and if he or she is determined to leave on this account, the Christian is not under further marriage bonds and is not held responsible or punished by requirement to remain single the rest of his or her life because of the rebellion of another. The Christian is to submit to the breaking of the marriage covenant under such circumstances.

Commands Concerning Marriage

1Corinthians 7:10-11 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 

‘I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband.’ Commands concerning marriage: Let every man have his own wife and every woman her own husband (7:2). Let the husband meet the sexual needs of the wife and the wife that of her husband (not just his own and without any perversion (7:3-4). Defraud not each other in sexual matters – fulfil your conjugal vows. Come together again after you have consented to live content for a period so as to pray and fast (7:5). Let both man and woman marry if they have battles of self-control (7:9). Let not the wife depart from her husband (7:10). If she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband (7:11) if there was no fornication, violence or neglect. Let not the husband divorces his wife (7:11). Let not the Christian man/wife divorces the non-Christian if he/she is pleased to dwell with him/her (reasons, 7:12-16). If the unbelievers depart and refuse to live with the Christian, let him/her depart. Do not force continuance of the marriage. The Christian is freed from the marriage bonds in such cases (7:15). Let every man or woman remain as he or she was when each became a Christian (7:17-24). That is, do not use Christianity as an excuse to break up your own home and perhaps another, seeking a new companion. If you are bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed (7:27). That is, do not get a divorce, regardless of the past. Stay in the same calling and state in which you were saved (7:17-24). If you are loosed from a husband/wife, seek not another (7:27). If you do marry, however, you have not sinned (7:28). You that have husbands/wives, live as though you did not have them (7:29-31). That is, live free from anxiety and stress (7:32-35). It is no sin for the virgin to marry (7:36-38). The wife is bound by law to be married as long as the husband lives (7:39). Marriage is for the lifetime of the husband or wife. Christians must remarry only Christians when companions die or leave (7:39).

‘Depart’ – This means to get a divorce, or Paul would not have restricted her to remain single, not remarrying unless it was to her former husband. Among Jews a woman had just as much right to put away a husband as the husband had to put away a wife. A woman could say to the elders that her parents or brethren had deceived her, betrothed her to the husband when she was young, and state, “I now reveal to you that I will not have him as my husband.” Some parted with mutual consent and this was considered legal, as was also their remarriage to others. All divorces were considered the complete dissolution of the marriage bond; and, in consequence of this, they were free to remarry. Any woman or man who got a divorce on grounds other than those allowed was to remain single or remarry the former companion. Divorce on scriptural grounds meant that a person was free to remarry, providing it was to another Christian (7:15, 27-28; Matt. 5:32; 19:6). The innocent was not to be held responsible for the sins of the guilty (Ezek. 18:2-4, 13, 17-32).