Surrendering rights requires personal sacrifice. It means dying to self and what we might feel is due us and thinking of others first. It will be uncomfortable at times and will push us outside our comfort zones. But why would we do this? Why go to the effort and voluntarily surrender our rights when God has given us complete freedom in Christ? To win the lost.
Freedom and rights. These are and have been hot topics in America for centuries. In fact, the quest for freedom and expression of rights was the motivation behind America’s war for independence. Since that time, laws and rulings have been made that protect and define personal, professional, civil, and religious rights. While rights and freedoms are not bad and at times are worthy of defending and protecting, what does the Bible say about how we are to use our rights?
1 Corinthians 8 focuses on a point of conflict within the Corinthian church that at first glance may seem to have no relevance to us. However, on close examination and with proper application, the lessons Paul teaches in this chapter are more relevant to us than ever before.
Pride is often the root issue in any conflict situation, and pride is fueled and puffed up by knowledge that is disconnected from application. The Corinthians lived in a Greek culture that prized knowledge as the ultimate possession and leveraged any knowledge they gained to control and manipulate others. This love for knowledge devoid of practical application caused many of the conflicts within the early church at Corinth and made them susceptible to false teaching.
For this reason, as Paul prepares to address a second topic that the Corinthians wrote to him about, he prefaces this section with a quick teaching on the danger of empty knowledge.
Is it better to be single or married? The answer varies depending on which culture and church era you live in. At one point, singleness was exalted as extra spiritual and a better way to serve and glorify God while marriage was looked down upon and viewed as only fit for the weaker brother. However, today that perspective has flipped. In most Christian circles, marriage is now supreme and lifted up as the ultimate life calling and the best way (and in some perspectives only way) Christians can serve God and build His kingdom on earth. But what does the Bible say on the matter?
In the middle of Paul’s thorough discussion on marriage and singleness, he seems to break off onto a tangent that is unrelated to the topic. However, while the principles in this section are applied to all areas of life, they are especially pertinent to the question of which is best, marriage or singleness. Paul answers this question by saying that the best is whatever life God calls you to live. Don’t compare your life with others or analyze whether or not marriage would be better for your future or if singleness would be more advantageous. Simply live the life God has set before you, seeking Him first in all things and then allowing Him to lead and direct your steps.
Here’s what Paul writes on this matter.
Paul tackles a lot of tough subjects in 1 Corinthians, which is why many churches and pastors tend to avoid teaching out of this book. However, while some of these topics may make people uncomfortable, they are extremely relevant for us today. Up to this point, Paul has addressed issues of disunity within the church, blatant sin by professing Christians and how such a person cannot remain in the church without repentance, and sexual immorality and God’s intended purposes for our bodies.
These were issues that Paul saw within the church at Corinth and were the top priorities to address. Now as we dive into 1 Corinthians 7, Paul begins to teach on topics that the Corinthians had written him about, asking for instruction and clarification. The first of these questions that Paul writes about is God’s design for marriage and that unique relationship.
Sexual immorality was a pervasive issue in first century Corinth. The number of prostitutes in the city and extremely loose morals in Corinthian culture were famous throughout the known world. Corinth was known as the place to be to partake in debauchery and all types of sinful and selfish pleasure. The mentality of the city was “I have rights and will use those rights to get what I want and nobody can tell me no.”
In the midst of this, God started a church and called people out from the evil culture that surrounded them, setting them apart to be His representatives to a broken world. But transformation doesn’t typically happen overnight. It’s a process. The Corinthians came out of the ungodly culture, but did not rid themselves of all the trappings of their former life. They tried to blend their Christian life and values with those held by the godless culture around them.
As we’ve already seen in the last couple chapters, the church at Corinth was struggling with some serious sin issues. They were turning a blind eye to sexual immorality within the church, allowing disunity and conflict to get out of hand, and in general letting culture and the world influence them more than the truth of God’s Word. But as Paul starts to address these issues and bring strong words of rebuke, he also sprinkles in words of encouragement—reminding them who they are in Christ and that despite their struggles with sin, they are still redeemed children of God. They just needed to learn how to act and live like it
Conflict is an inevitable part of doing life with other sinful human beings. Some things will rub us the wrong way, miscommunication will arise, or someone will hurt someone else intentionally or otherwise. When these things occur, emotions rise, tempers flare, and conflict ensues. While conflict is a normal and expected part of life here on this broken planet and often outside the realm of our control, how we navigate conflict is within our sphere of control and should be different as followers of Jesus Christ.