Monday, June 25, 2007

Is Christ Divided? session 8

Click 'full post' for text of latest notes on 1 Corinthians - chapter 7 this time.

Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.

Week eight, beginning Sunday 25 June: 1 Corinthians 7

Main themes: Marriage and sexuality

Questions to prompt discussion

1.Does Christianity have a positive understanding sexuality? Our wider non-Christian culture would undoubtedly shout 'No!' - why is this? Where has the radically disordered understanding of sexuality in our society come from? Is there anything that the church needs to repent of?
2.Is it ever permissible to seek a divorce?
3.Divorce is now prevalent in our culture, and in our church community - how do we live with this situation as Christians?
4.What does Paul mean when he says that 'the time is short' (v29)? Was he wrong, or do we just need to 'spiritualise' his comments?

Supplementary thoughts:
Paul is now beginning to respond to other questions raised by the Corinthian church in a letter to him; we can guess at their views: a) those who are single should avoid marriage; b) the married should refrain from sex; c) those who are married, especially to unbelievers, should be divorced; d) those who are engaged should not proceed to marriage. Paul goes through each of these points in turn.

Paul very rarely states explicitly that his teaching is 'from the Lord', yet he does so for the teaching on divorce in verses 10 and 11, which ties in with what Jesus says in the gospels (Mk 10.2-11 and parallels). Yet Paul seems to have a very pragmatic attitude in much of this passage, and a distinct awareness of human vulnerability and weakness - see verse 11 in particular. Another passage of relevance is Mark 12.25, within its context. Paul is also quite moderate in his attitude, seeming to allow for the possibility that he might be wrong (verses 6, 25, 40).

Much of Paul's argumentation rests on the desirability of not changing a present state (married/virgin/slave etc), in the light of tribulations soon to arrive - Paul expects the end of the world to arrive within his lifetime (see 1 Thess 4.15 and 1 Cor 15.52 for parallels), though his views moderated over time.

Notes on verses
v 1: literally, 'it is good for a man not to touch a woman', ie have sexual relations. 'Marriage' is not mentioned.
vv 3&4: Paul is very radical and egalitarian in his teaching here
v 7: it is not known what Paul's 'state' was - he was either celibate or a widower.
vv 12-16: note Paul's reversal of the direction of contamination (again, very radical!)
v 17: 'called' probably means that state in which one was converted, not a vocation to which one is summoned (cf v 20, 24)
v 19 is rather paradoxical, which was probably Paul's intent - ie 'rethink the assumptions!'

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