Handling Issues

Husbands and wives, even as Christians, often have issues to deal with, and situations to work through. When Jesus was teaching on the seriousness of the marriage relationship, and the importance of not getting a divorce, the apostlesí comment was, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry" (Matthew 19:10). As complex as the relationship between man and wife is, it is simple compared to the intricacies of the inter-relationships that occur with the local church. So at some point within the interactions of the body of Christ, frictions will occur, saints will be offended, issues will develop, and sometimes general church action must take place. Hence the apostle Paul offers some Spirit-inspired directives for dealing with these situations that have escalated.

Modern congregations need to learn from the breakdown in Corinth. "Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you," animadverted the concerned apostle, "that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren" (I Corinthians 6:7,8). Better for a saint to be defrauded, if it comes to that, rather than having the name of Christ dragged through the courts.

Moral Issues

The congregation at Corinth was beset by all kinds of problems. There were those who were "politicking" to maneuver themselves into positions of leadership that they did not deserve. There were those who were incorporating Greek "wisdom" and philosophy into the doctrines being taught by the church. There were rampant immorality, fleshliness, division and fighting. There were brethren who were filing lawsuits against one another in the courts of this world. Satan was having his heyday, and the apostle Paul was once again having to take his stand to "right the ship," and prevent more collateral damage from taking place.

Christians are "new creatures in Christ." The old self is to be laid aside, and the new self is to be put on. Those who refuse to participate with all diligence in this transformation will remain what they were in their former life, and their continuing behavior will send them straight to hell.

You Were Washed

The word of God continually paints the picture of what the new creature in Christ is. Time after time, and in illustration after illustration, teaching after teaching, the Holy Spirit points the sincere believer to the image of Christ in glory, and repeatedly shows him how that image in the saintís faith center translates into high spiritual performance and exemplary behavior. The scripture describes those in Satanís realm as "sinners"; that is who they are, and therefore they act accordingly. The word of God describes those in Christís kingdom as "saints"; and if that is truly what they are, they will act accordingly. Performance is always based on the inner picture; hence God works to transform the inner picture, both by painting the picture and by the transforming power of the Spirit in the inner man.

This washing, sanctification, and justification were "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." This parallels, as expected, Acts 2:38. Immersion in water is "in the name of Jesus Christ," and the "gift of the Holy Spirit" is then granted. Thus it was with the Corinthian brethren, and they are reminded of this. This is where their new image began; this is where the old man of sin was done away with, and the new self was resurrected to walk in newness of life! They needed to be reminded of this picture, so that they might have the performance befitting those sanctified and bearing the name of Jesus the Christ!

The System of Faith Works

Being an adulterer or other sexual pervert was wrong under the Law of Moses. Idolatry was wrong, and likewise punishable by physical death. Stealing, coveting, reviling, drunkenness, and the like had similar condemnation. But did the Law really prevent those things from happening? The record of Israel according to the flesh is that while they may have, to outward appearances, observed the Law, inwardly and under cover they participated in all these sinful and destructive practices. Hence, if the apostle Paul were to try to help the saints at Corinth past these habits and practices by bringing the Law down on them, he would have had the same results as were accomplished under old covenant. Therefore, he will ó after pointing out the consequences of those who engaged in such practices, that they would not enter the kingdom of heaven ó broach the subject their changing by "a new and living way."

The saints in Corinth were beset by varied and multitudinous sins. The apostle Paul could not help them accomplish real change by coming in and hammering them with the law of Moses; that system did not work in Israel, and would not work in the church. Hence he continues to work with those who are yet "fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers" on a different basis, appealing to them on the basis of their conductís being "profitable." Real change in performance only springs from a real change in thought processes. Thus Paul was going to the root of the problem ó the way they thought ó rather than simply excoriating their performance. This is how the system of faith works, and why the system of law fails!

Temporal Vs Eternal

The intelligent individual is going to invest in that which has positive long term return, and he is going to avoid significant investment in that which has no return at all. The grass may need to be mowed and the snow may need to be shoveled, but there is, for the most part, no return on the investment of time for those necessary but not particularly long-term productive tasks. And thus it is for most of earthly living; the work connected with planting, harvesting, buying, selling, building, marrying, and being given in marriage has no long term benefit other than to sustain the individual while he is in the process of deciding where he is going to spend eternity. The "outer man is decaying," affirmed the apostle Paul, "yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (II Corinthians 4:16). It is obvious, then, to the clearly reasoning mind, that the area to invest in is in things eternal rather than things temporal.

The problem is perspective. As long as temporal things are the fixations of the mind, then the world and Satan have their opportunity to pull the saint into immorality. The goal of God, therefore, is to help the saint keep his eyes fixed on Jesus who sits on His glorious throne. If the Christian can continue to focus on the things eternal, the things temporal will have no pull power. Then the body will truly be for the Lord!

Flee Immorality

The leaven of immorality was working its way through the congregation in Corinth. Sexual proclivities have a perniciousness and infectiousness about them; those involved by nature are in the process of recruiting others into the same depravities. Furthermore, the visual and open attractions, as well as the more clandestine subtleties, appeal to the sensual side of the human race, and can serve to pull a Christian off his path. Hence the word of God is strident in its warnings in this area. "Do you not know," Paul had stated a bit earlier in this epistle, "that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" Not only can the individual saint accept the misdirection immorality offers, but the whole congregation can be desensitized into accepting such flagrant violations of the sacred marriage relationship.

The injunction: "Flee immorality."

The Holy Spirit's Temple

The great event in the future is styled "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb." God thus designed the consummation of marriage as the specific means of communicating the ultimate spiritual intimacy between Jesus and the church. Satan, then, in strategizing his assault on Christ and His bride, works to pervert the bond that makes man and wife one flesh, and promotes every sort of sexuality outside the marriage covenant. It is somewhat understandable for those who are slaves of sin, who lie in the power of the evil one, to be pulled into adultery, fornication, and perversion. But for those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness, and have been transferred into the kingdom of Godís beloved SonÖ No wonder Paul exclaimed, "Shall I take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot!"

The body of the Christian is the temple of the Lord. That body then must be brought under subjection to the will of God so that it shines spiritually for anyone who has eyes to see. Therefore glorify God in your body!