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Sex and Morality in Corinth (2) 1 Corinthians 5-7

Why is 1 Corinthians such a mixed bag of instructions that seem to contradict each other?

What is Paul's advice to reduce the divisions in the congregations?

Did Paul tell women to always submit and be silent as men always lead and speak?

Does Paul discuss mutual dependence and equality in marriage?

What did Paul tell the Corinthians about sex and morality?

Did Paul really condemn homosexuality?

Let's examine the most common contradictions and controversies.


I divide my discussion of 1 Corinthians into 6 sections

This is part 2 of 6, covering Chapters 5-7. It addresses sex and morality, the mistreatment of family members, the exploitation of prostitutes, and the abuse of freedoms. Paul advises faithfulness, commitment and unity. Focus on Jesus, the motivation and source of strength for living honourably, with upright morals.


1 Corinthians 5: Expel the Evil

Paul addresses Chloe's report that influential believers in Corinth are defending a man who is having intimate relations with his father's wife, bragging proudly of their freedom and teaching others it is acceptable. Paul criticizes them and says this type of immorality is worse than the unbelievers and hurts the witness and reputation of the congregation of believers. Paul backs Chloe and tells them to expel the evil one to stop the evil ideas from spreading. Paul wants them not to associate with anyone who calls themselves a brother or sister and who worships false gods, commits sexual incest, is arrogant, braggy, greedy, abusive, drunken, a cheater of a thief. Don't eat with anyone like this. Pray that God would save such people.


Egalitarian Reflections

Paul is responding to a report from "Chloe's people" and it seems that Chloe was the leader of a house church and she sent a delegation to Paul reporting that a group of outspoken men challenged her leadership, defended the man committing incest, and told Chloe she was wrong to limit their freedom.


Similarly today, the church is slow to believe a woman who exposes a man for inappropriate behaviour and slow to expel the man. Some churches protect and defend abusive men and instead expel a woman who exposes her husband as abusive or divorces him (1). It seems a small group of vocal or powerful men are quick to expel women and marginalized groups but slow to expose or expel men who may be guilty of adultery, pornography, or having sex with a minor.


Paul tells believers to stop associating with people who claim to be Christian yet exhibit the fruits of evil. Paul tells the church to expel the perpetrator, not the person who makes accusations against an abuser or the wife who has separated from an abusive husband. Victims of domestic abuse should separate from their abuser; they should not even eat with them. Gretchen Baskerville offers a Christian divorce recovery ministry addressing incorrect Christian teachings and supporting life-saving divorce. She outlines unsafe divorce teachings (like staying with an abuser) and reveals that one in four highly religious US marriages have abuse (2).


1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Settle Lawsuits Inhouse

Paul also responds to the report that believers are taking legal cases against one another to unbelievers. Paul says it would be better to be wronged and cheated than to take a fellow believer to court, perhaps because secular judges are unjust. Paul says that male and female believers are competent to judge justly.

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

Paul reiterates that all believers are competent to judge angels when he says a woman ought to have authority over what she wears on her own head (1 Corinthians 11:10). Paul advocates that the congregation appoint respected members as judges. He suggests settling disputes within the community, as was done by the judges of ancient Israel. This method would serve the believers as well as help the congregation's reputation.


Egalitarian Reflections

Paul says plainly that all male and female believers are able and encouraged to make judgements. It is usually better to settle out of court. Jesus advised that we settle matters quickly before our adversary takes us to court (Matthew 5:25).


However, in some cases, male church leaders listen only to the male side and judge unfairly. Rather than investigate and address complaints when a woman exposes a man with problematic behaviour, congregations with male-only decision-makers have sometimes defended the accused man and blamed and expelled the woman who complained. While patriarchal church leaders may deny a woman justice, they may also prevent her from accessing secular justice by using these verses. Patriarchal leaders may say a woman who separates from her husband has abandoned her vows. However, if her husband is abusive or addicted to pornography, he has already abandoned his vows. Patriarchal leaders may also refuse to settle a woman's requests for child support, calling her greedy and selfish. However, the Bible says anyone who does not provide for his own children is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). If the church does not affirm the woman's rights to safety from abuse and support for children, she must go to a secular court. Gretchen Baskerville speaks out against the perverse Christian teachings and advocates that a woman seek protection from the police or support from a non-church woman's shelter (3). If you have been told that God is against divorce for any reason, I encourage you to seek out alternative advice.


1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Inheriting the Kingdom of God

After Paul condemns lawsuits against brothers and sisters, he provides a list of wrongs, including idolatry, adultery, greed, drunkenness, thieving, cheating, slandering, stealing, and swindling. Paul says people doing these wrongs will not inherit the kingdom of God and are not heirs of the new, eternal life. Some of you were like this before, but you are sanctified now in Christ.


Three Views on Salvation and Inheriting the Kingdom


A) You Can Lose Your Salvation

Traditional commentaries, and most Calvinist theologians, say that this complete list of wrongs means that anyone who continues showing these behaviours will not enter heaven. Those holding this view feel justified in telling others to repent and change their behaviour. This list of wrongdoings is seen as threatening eternal punishment and the loss of our salvation. The unrighteous are those who unrepentantly repeat a lifestyle of greed, stealing drunkenness, or adultery. In contrast, the righteous are those who repent, turn to God, and aim to obey God's commands. The righteous believer matures in the Spirit and keeps their salvation by demonstrating less wrongdoing in their lives. (4).


B) Your Actions Reveal Your Faith

Other theologians say that this sample list of vices as well as using secular courts, reveals that your heart is not right with God. Those holding this view feel justified in telling others to change their beliefs. We receive salvation by faith, not actions; likewise, we do not keep our salvation by our actions or behaviours. Paul assures us elsewhere that anyone who believes in Jesus has a new, eternal life (Romans 2:7-10, 3:21-26, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 4:20-24, Galatians 5:13-16, Galatians 5:22-23). We do not earn entrance to heaven by avoiding lawsuits or wrongdoing. We enter the kingdom by our faith in God's grace. Being filled with God's Spirit gives us the strength to overcome wrongdoing. Our actions show that God reigns in our hearts and lives.


C). These Actions Reflect our Old Selves

Another view is that the partial list of wrongs shows that none of us can earn entrance to the kingdom by our moral behaviour. Paul provides examples of wrongdoing to demonstrate that we were unrighteous in the past, and guilty of wrongdoing that would have led to eternal punishment. Then he immediately reminds us that Jesus made us righteous (5). Our salvation does not rely on our behaviour but instead relies on God's grace. Paul reassures us that we are forgiven and made righteous not by obeying every moral law but by our faith in Jesus, through God's grace.


What's on the list of Wrongs?

In several of Paul's letters, he shows sample lists of wrongdoing, reminding us of our previous unrighteousness, and then reminding us that because of Jesus, we are now righteous.  Paul does not write these passages as threats to losing salvation but to contrast the old, selfish ways with the new, Spirit-filled ways. Let's look at the way this pattern is repeated.


Corinth

Before, when you worshipped false gods, you were greedy, drunken, abusive cheaters (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Now that you let God reign in your heart, you can be generous, holy, gentle, kind, and loving.

That is what some of you used to be! But you were washed clean, you were made holy... 1 Corinthians 6:11.

Now God has transformed you and clothed you in Christ's righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). We become righteous through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).


Galatia:

Paul provides a list of wrongs to the church in Galatia (Galatians 5:19-21), followed by the behaviours that exhibit the Holy Spirit reigning in our hearts.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Rome:

Paul provides a list of wrongs in his letter to Rome (Romans 1:25-32), followed by a long discussion of how we do not become righteous by our own actions in obeying moral laws. He warns that when you judge others, you condemn yourself because you are also guilty of doing wrong. There is no room for boasting about our moral behaviours because we are justified by faith (Romans 6:23).

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24).

Colossians:

Paul lists examples of our earthly nature: immorality, lust, greed, idolatry. Rid yourself of anger, bad language, slander, and lies. Paul says to put on our new self, our spiritual nature where there is no Gentile or Jew, no favouritism based on your earthly body.


"You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived" (Colossians 3:7)


Ephesus

Paul (or an imitator of Paul) wrote the letter of 1 Timothy to Timothy, a pastor in Ephesus. In it, he reverses the order, giving the reassurances first, and the list of wrongdoing second.

"... rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:4-5)

The lists of wrongs in Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Colossians, and 1 Timothy remind all believers they have nothing to boast about. All of us would be condemned if it were not for Christ. If you think homosexuality is immoral, you condemn yourself because you who pass judgement are also guilty of doing wrong (Romans 2:1).


There are various levels of sin; the worst sin is unfaithfulness to God. The Bible often uses unfaithfulness in marriage to explain unfaithfulness to God. Jesus compared unfaithfulness to Sodom and Gomorrah not because there was homosexuality but because there was sexual exploitation, homosexual gang rape, and violence

Did Paul Condemn Homosexuality?

But what if homosexuality is not even on the list of immoral behaviours? What if Paul does not condemn or even address homosexuality between faithful, consenting, and monogamous partners? What if recent translations have bowed to societal norms and inserted "men who sleep with men" or "homosexuality" in place of what Paul was actually condemning?


In 1 Corinthians 6, English translations of the Bible did not use the word homosexual until 1946 (6). The literal translation of 1 Corinthians 6:13 condemns men who are whoremongers, (promiscuous men, who have uncontrolled lust, and take the active role in using a woman or young boy as a prostitute), or effeminate (men or boys who take the passive role, being exploited by dominant men) (7). Paul used the word that condemns dominant males who were abusing boys (8).  


In Romans and Galatians, Paul criticizes lasciviousness, lechery, debauchery, and orgies, which refer to excessive sexual desire without reference to sexual orientation (Galatians 5:19-21). In the first century, it was thought that only those who had unrestrained lust that could not be satisfied by heterosexual sex would turn to homosexual activity (9).


In 1 Timothy, Paul condemns "whoremongers, sodomites, men-stealers" (1 Timothy 1:10 Young's Literal Translation). These terms describe men kidnapping young boys to traffic, abuse, and exploit for sex. These are ungodly behaviours that we must repent and turn away from.


What is Sexual Immorality?


Let's look at the impact of four definitions of sexual immorality(10).


accepting and affirming
Source https://www.abbi.org.au/2017/03/welcoming-accepting-affirming/

A) Anti-Gay

This position is that both sexual orientation and homosexual activity are sexually immoral, Conservative Christians tend to forgive lawsuits among believers, selfish ambition, greed, gluttony, pride, envy, jealousy, lust, cheating, swindling, discord, hatred, drunkenness, anger, gossip, and slander while condemning LGBTQ+ as well as divorce and remarriage and common-law relationships. Why the difference?

(a) because sexual sin is worse than other sins (1 Corinthians 6:18)

(b) because homosexual practices infer perpetually and unrepentantly repeating a form of adultery


The anti-gay position also applies sexual immorality and immorality to those who are divorced and remarried and to those who are in common-law relationships.


Trigger Warning: Rather than reading 'that is what some of you were' (v.11) as a warning that we would all be condemned if not for faith in Christ, they read it as saying faith transforms gay people to become straight. In other words, they believe that if you continue to be gay, you do not have the 'new self' of a Christian. They believe same-sex orientation is a sin that resulted from 'The Fall' and those who are gay must repent and change. Possibly, they believe that God created some gay to be condemned (as with Judas Iscariot) or subscribe to the doctrine of the elect (God chooses some to be saved and some to be doomed). Some churches will expel an LGBTQ person for homosexual activity based on their definition of sexual immorality.


All of this thinking is extremely harmful and has contributed to high rates of suicide among LGBTQ+ populations. Every sin deserves death (11), however, homosexuality is not a sin.


B) Welcoming LGBTQ+

This position welcomes all people into the congregation as listeners. However, LGBTQ+ are seen as sinners who must repent and stop all same-sex practices. They may say you must repent on every same-sex activity and returning to your same-sex partner is repeatedly crucifying Christ. If you do not turn away from same-sex relationships, you cannot be confirmed as a full member, take Holy Communion, or lead in worship. It is very common for Christian churches to say they are welcoming while holding a hidden agenda to convert gays to straight (12).


One example of a Welcoming denomination is the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) which welcomes all people and does not condemn sexual orientation but prevents full "confessional" membership to LGBTQ+ and states that individuals must repent of and stop same-sex practices. At the 2022 CRCNA national meeting, Dominic Palacios spoke against a report, which equated homosexual activity with unchastity. He said the fruit of that report was suicides and excluding people from fellowship and that the denomination's theology on this issue has caused blood on our hands (13). Perhaps the phrase brought to mind Isaiah 1:15-18: “When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with blood." The chair of the meeting said Palacios's comment violated the rules of decorum and would not allow him to speak unless he rescinded the comment. After that, few people spoke against the report, and it passed.


C) Accepting LGBTQ+

This position welcomes all people and accepts that homosexuality is the way you were created and agrees that orientation is not a sin. However, they believe that homosexual activity is incompatible with obedience to God's will (14). Same-sex oriented people must "go and sin no more." Under this view, homosexuals are welcome and do not need to repent of the way God made them, but must be celibate to be sexually moral. You may participate in Holy Communion and lead in worship as long as you remain celibate.


One example of an Accepting organization is Christians for Biblical Equality. Its website states the belief that the Bible teaches fundamental equality of women and men of all racial and ethnic groups, all economic classes and all ages. CBE states that "God’s design for relationships includes faithful marriage between a woman and a man, celibate singleness (15) and mutual submission in Christian community." This statement reflects a belief that all are accepted but homosexuals may not marry and must be celibate.


D) Affirming LGBTQ+

This position affirms that neither same-sex orientation nor activity are sinful or immoral. Paul did not include homosexuality on his lists of wrongs. Original translations and context indicate that Paul's letters more likely condemned things like manstealing, kidnapping, slave trading, sex trafficking, managing prostitutes, and men exploiting young boys as prostitutes.


Both homosexuals and heterosexuals are sexually immoral if they are unfaithful, promiscuous, or commit adultery against their partner. These are the wrongs of which we can repent and behaviours that we can change. Being same-sex-oriented is not a choice, is not idolatry, is not a sin. All believers are called to be faithful to their partner, regardless of orientation. This passage about sexual immorality is not likely related to homosexuality at all! (16)


God is the author of your sexual orientation, loves you and wants to bring you life in all its fullness. Letting God reign in your heart does not change your orientation. Sexual orientation and faithful relationships of consenting adult homosexuals are not immoral or sinful and do not require repentance or change.  Jesus seems to acknowledge that some men are born and created to be not sexually oriented towards women (Matthew 19). You cannot change your height, your freckles or how you are made. What you can do is be faithful, loyal, kind, generous, and just.


Megachurch evangelical pastor Andy Stanley was recently criticized because he stated that there are gay people, and gays are not straight people with a sin problem (17).

Conservative Christians believe that same-sex orientation and activity is a sin that requires repentance and change. Affirming Christians believe being LGBTQ+ is the result of how God created you, not the result of sin. God has something to show us in creating diverse kinds of people. Perhaps God is showing us how to love those different from the societal norm. The overarching message of the Bible is that God loves all people, and seeks to redeem all people, celebrating when they are embraced into the family of faith.


An example of a fully affirming denomination is Metropolitan Community Churches, which involve both gay and straight as clergy and perform both gay and straight weddings.


Aphrodite
The Corinth temple to Aphrodite had 1000 temple prostitutes https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Aphrodite_Heyl_%281%29.jpg

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Abuse of Freedom

After discussing how the readers used to be unrighteous and now, through Christ, are righteous, Paul discusses how believers are abusing their freedom. He cites this abuse of freedom as the root cause of the immoral behaviours described in chapters 5 and 6.


Paul quotes the Corinthians (likely outspoken, powerful men) in Chloe's report, saying 'Everything is permissible for me' or 'I have the right to do anything'.


Paul refutes and corrects them, saying 'but not everything is beneficial' and 'do not be mastered by anything'. Paul does not let his body master him, but instead, he masters his body (1 Corinthians 9:27).


Paul quotes them saying "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food" (apparently a euphemism that sex is needed for the body and the body is made for sex).


Paul refutes and corrects them by saying the body is not made for sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). Paul quotes the false rationale used by the Corinthian men to defend their immoral practices and then Paul refutes it,


Paul says their bodies are part of Christ's body, the body of the church. Their body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Paul gives an example from Scripture to explain how they are united in Christ's body and cannot then be united with multiple partners or multiple gods. In the beginning, God said that when a husband and wife join together, they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Likewise, when believers join the Lord, they have one spirit. Paul reminds them they are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You have God's Spirit in you, so honour God with your body by being faithful to your partner. The morality of having one partner instead of multiple partners is the same for both same-sex and opposite-sex orientations.


Egalitarian Reflections:

God gives us freedom but commands us to do what is helpful and loving to others. Paul says that believers are the body of Christ, and as believers, we should not unite with prostitutes. Knowing your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit is meant to empower believers with the Spirit's wisdom, guidance, and strength to do what is right. Being a temple of the Spirit should not be used to shame women about their bodies, or control their dress or behaviour. Such purity messages have actually resulted in harm to girls and women (16).


Paul uses marriage to illustrate that just as a husband and wife become one flesh in marriage, believers and Jesus have one spirit in the body of Christ. Paul refers to the union of a husband and wife in marriage not to condemn same-sex relationships but to explain the union of Christ and the body of believers. The reference to 'one flesh' is about unity and oneness, not about a man and a woman creating children. God created human bodies with the capacity for sex to increase unity and intimacy in a couple. Some heterosexual activities result in children; some heterosexual couples are infertile, past menopause or childbearing age. Likewise, some homosexuals may bear children; some may have intimacy that does not result in children. Paul is admonishing all believers, regardless of sexual orientation, to be mature and faithful to their partners.


1 Corinthians 7:1-7 Mutuality in Marriage

Paul quotes the report from Chloe's people saying "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman".


Paul refutes the quote and corrects the believers, saying they do not need to become celibate or avoid marriage. Paul permits the believers to marry one another; he does not command it. Marital status is not related to holiness. Being married is not better than being single; being a mother is not better than being without children; being single is not better than being married. Paul affirms that each marital status is equally valuable and that each woman and man has a particular gift from God, to be single, married, or unmarried.


Paul is concerned that the belief in celibacy, even for married couples, is causing sexual immorality. To avoid such immorality, a husband and wife should have sexual relations, love, affection, and pleasure by mutual consent. If one wants to be celibate, both must agree for a period and then come back together again so that Satan doesn't tempt them to sexual immorality. It is very possible that the woman in Ephesus is insisting on celibacy with her husband when


Both the husband and the wife yield their bodies to their marriage partner. Maybe they need sex, maybe they need rest, cuddles, affection, help, rest or to recover from an illness. Paul says believer does not have to be celibate but that sex must be enjoyed by mutual consent.

Likewise, the husband doesn't have authority over his own body, but the wife does (1 Corinthians 7:4).

Egalitarian Reflections:

In Paul's longest passage on married life, he provides a refreshingly mutual view of marriage. His instructions are the same for the wife and the husband. Paul does not present a one-way hierarchy of authority. Paul does not tell a woman to consistently submit and always be available for sex. He does not tell a man to insist on his wife being an underling, respecting and revering her husband. A godly marriage is when both spouses yield to the other and practice mutual consent. Paul tells both marriage partners to love and care for their partner as they would care for their own bodies.


It seems the false doctrine that celibacy was more moral was widespread. It is very possible that a woman in Ephesus was bullying her husband into celibacy when Paul wrote not to allow a woman to domineer her husband (1 Timothy 2:12). The woman seems afraid that relations with her husband could put her at risk now that they have turned their backs on Artemis, a goddess of childbirth and midwifery, and Paul reassures her that God will protect her through childbearing if she and her husband remain faithful and self-controlled (1 Timothy 2:15). Marriage and intimacy are by mutual consent.


card 7
Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage

Mutuality in Marriage Pattern

Like in 1 Corinthians 7, other passages on marriage also promote mutuality, not hierarchy.


In my book, The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says about a Woman's Role, the Egalitarian sword thrusts the view that all believers submit to one another and the Complementarian defence is that a wife must submit and unconditionally respect her husband.


Ephesians

In Ephesians, Paul discusses love and mutual submission in marriage. Women and men are both to imitate God and love others as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Corinthians 13:3, Romans 13:10, John 13:34). Women and men are both to be filled with the Spirit: singing, thankful, and submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:18-21). Paul uses the familiar marriage union to explain the unfamiliar union of believers with Christ (19).


Colossians

Paul tells Colossian women and men to teach and correct each other with God's wisdom and songs from the Spirit (Colossians 3:16). Paul affirms that in Christ there is no preference based on gender, race, or class (Colossians 3:11). Paul promotes mutuality, telling men and women to be compassionate, kind, and gentle. Telling husbands and wives to bear with each other and forgive each other, and love each other (Colossians 3:12-14). In this context, Paul's instructions to wives and husbands are likewise mutual. Submitting means putting the other person's wants before yours. Loving means treating your spouse as you treat yourself (Colossians 3:18-19).


1 Peter

Peter echoes the biblical pattern that marriage be a union of mutual love and service. Peter advises wives to submit or defer to their husbands, and likewise, husbands, in the same way, be considerate of their wives, unselfishly putting a wife's needs above his own (1 Peter 3:1-7).


1 Corinthians 7:8-9 Unmarried

Paul addresses the widows and the unmarried together, including himself in that category. There was no word for 'widower' and unmarried likely included widows, widowers, separated, and divorced (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

It's good for them to stay unmarried like me (1 Corinthians 7:8).

Since Paul was advancing quickly towards becoming a member of the Sanhedrin (Galatians 1:14) and marriage was a requirement to join the Sanhedrin, he was likely married at a young age and became unmarried before travelling for evangelistic work (20).

It is quite likely that his wife died in childbirth since this was common and he had no children (23). It is permitted for widows and widowers to marry but Paul did not, likely because he did not want to be distracted from his work for the kingdom. Alternatively, Paul may have had a wife who abandoned him when he was being persecuted for speaking against the Sanhedrin and following The Way of Jesus. He speaks about his right to travel with a wife (1 Corinthians 9:3-5). He may have been referencing his marriage when he wrote he had lost all things for Christ’s sake (Philippians 3:8).


1 Corinthians 7:10-16: Separated and Divorced

Paul also provides a mutual view of separation. Women were rarely able to initiate a divorce in ancient Israel. A man could divorce his wife if ‘she failed to please him’ (Deuteronomy 24:1). In ancient Israel, divorce was lawful, not sinful, and common. Men often abandoned wives but women were not able to leave their husbands. Paul says a wife shouldn't leave her husband and then reverses the power imbalance by saying that likewise, a husband should not leave his wife.

A wife shouldn't leave her husband and a husband shouldn't divorce his wife (1 Corinthians 7:11).

Paul is encouraging spouses to be faithful to their vows. Paul says that even if your unbelieving spouse stays with you, they may be convinced through your words and actions. However, if a spouse is an unbeliever or chooses to abandon their vows or leave the marriage, let them leave. You are not tied down in such circumstances.


Egalitarian Reflections

Paul knew that the Scriptures permit separation and divorce, so this passage should not be used to tell women not to ever be separated or divorced or that they may not leave an abusive husband. Paul was flattening the hierarchy, telling both women and men to remain faithful to their marriage vows. Gretchen Baskerville is a Christian experienced in divorce recovery ministry. She offers support and rsources in her book, Thee Life-Saving Divorce: Hope for People Leaving Destructive Relationships, and on her Facebook page The Life-Saving Divorce – Gretchen Baskerville and her website (23). Her chart shows some of the Scriptures that Paul would have known that permits separation and divorce.


Christian views of divorce
Gretchen Baskerville, author of the Life-saving Divorce https://lifesavingdivorce.com/

The Bible gives several situations that acknowledge that God permits separation, divorce, and remarriage. One example is when an unbelieving spouse leaves you. A spouse who is either emotionally or physically remote or abusive has abandoned their vows to love and care for you. Another example is in cases of sexual immorality and adultery. Under Jesus's definition of adultery, this includes pornography. A husband divorcing his wife reflects his unfaithfulness but does not make her immoral.


The Bible sets out to protect a woman from a husband abandoning his vows or divorcing his wife on a whim. “The man who hates and divorces his wife does violence to the one he should protect” (Malachi 2:16). It is up to each partner to acknowledge their part in any breakdown in marital communication or love. One person cannot change another person. If you are having difficulty in your marriage, seek professional guidance from those who have experience in the field.


1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Status Quo

Paul says that he teaches in all the churches to remain in the same circumstances as when you were called.

Stay with God in the situation you were in when you were called (1 Corinthians 7:24).

For example, if you were uncircumcised, stay that way. If you were free, don't enslave yourself. If you were a slave, don't fight it but do take advantage of any opportunity to be free. Likewise, Paul recommends remaining in the same marital status as when you were called. Paul seems to indicate he was unmarried already when God called him to travel and teach, and that remaining unmarried allowed him to fully dedicate himself to his task.


1 Corinthians 7:25-40 Singles

Paul addresses the never-married and virgins separate from the married and the unmarried. Paul has no command for them from God but can give his advice to stay as they were when they were called. He suggests that both virgin men and women would do well to remain single. Paul summarizes that Christ will soon return, and we should not be preoccupied with things of this world, because it is passing away. Paul wants them to be free of earthly concerns and give undivided attention to pleasing the Lord. However, he clarifies that they have permission to marry. They have the freedom to serve God in the marital status that is best for them. Paul does not give preference to any marital status; his priority is that believers keep their focus on God.


Paul turns abruptly to address other topics related to Christian freedom in 1 Corinthians 8.

Here are my commentaries on 1 Corinthians:

  1. Introduction to 1 Corinthians and discussion on chapters 1-4 on divisions

  2. This is post 2 of 6 on 1 Corinthians 5-7 is discusses sex and morality in Corinth

  3. 1 Corinthians 8-10 discusses Christian freedom in Corinth.

  4. 1 Corinthians 11 discusses public worship in Corinth.

  5. 1 Corinthians 12-14 discusses Spiritual Gifts in Corinth.

  6. 1 Corinthians 15-16 discusses Christ's Resurrection, the Cornerstone of our Faith


Sources:

  1. https://www.elainekelly.ca/post/dirty-laundry-in-the-church-and-what-to-do-about-it

  2. Gretchen Baskerville, Save Churches category, Lifesaving Divorce https://lifesavingdivorce.com/category/safe-churches-friends/

  3. Gretchen Baskerville, "Critique: Divorced What to do When", Lifesaving Divorce https://lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfblue/

  4. "What does it mean that a person will not inherit the kingdom of God?" https://www.gotquestions.org/not-inherit-kingdom-God.html

  5. Mike Cynar, "Some Christians Won't Inherit the Kingdom?" Jesus Without Religion, https://jesuswithoutreligion.com/some-christians-wont-inherit-the-kingdom-1-corinthians-69-explained/

  6. 1946 The Movie, https://www.1946themovie.com/

  7. Baldock, Kathy, “An Evening With Rev. David: The Story Behind a Historic Letter about Biblical Translation” The Reformation Project, 20 Feb. 2020, https://youtu.be/rdfxPDZEO5k?si=Qv9xQpPN5S56ZnYn

  8. "Open and Affirming", https://c-ucc.org/open-and-affirming-part-2-the-misuse-of-paul-1-corinthians-69-10-and-the-heterosexual-agenda/

  9. The Reformation Project https://reformationproject.org/case/romans/

  10. Anthony Venn-Brown "The Church is on a Journey", Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International, https://www.abbi.org.au/2017/03/welcoming-accepting-affirming/

  11. Nick Batzig, "Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?" Reformation 21, https://www.reformation21.org/blogs/are-some-sins-worse-than-other.php

  12. The Dark Reality Of Celebrity Endorsed Mega-Churches | State Of Grace | Refinery29 https://youtu.be/KLuB7fvMlhc?si=Xf6IV0841_cZ1RBK

  13. Parker, Kristen, "Delegate Loses Right to Speak", June 16, 2022, TheBanner, https://www.thebanner.org/news/2022/06/delegate-loses-right-to-speak

  14. "Homosexuality" Position Statement, Christian Reformed Church of North America, https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/homosexuality

  15. "About CBE" accessed May 30, 2024, CBEInternational, https://www.cbeinternational.org/primary_page/about-cbe/

  16. Elaine Kelly Author https://www.elainekelly.ca/post/do-jesus-and-paul-address-lgbt

  17. Honest Youth Pastor, "The Deconstruction of Andy Stanley" (minute 1:23) June 10, 2023, https://youtu.be/Y9H-ovSrNjE?si=6F-ulq7wffOE1uVh

  18. Sheila Wray Gregoire, "10 things that scare me about the "purity" culture", BareMarriage, January 19, 2016, https://baremarriage.com/2016/01/purity-culture-10-things-that-scare-me/

  19. Elaine Kelly Author https://www.elainekelly.ca/post/does-ephesians-even-teach-gender-roles 

  20. Denny Burk, et al. “Was the Apostle Paul Married?” Denny Burk, 30 Aug. 2011, www.dennyburk.com/was-the-apostle-paul-married/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

  21. Creasy, Dr. Bill. “Was St. Paul Married?” Logos Bible Study, Logos Bible Study, 8 May 2021, www.logosbiblestudy.com/blog/paul-married

  22. Houtz, Wyatt, “Was the apostle Paul married? Yes. Was Paul a widow? No. Did Paul abandon his wife? Also yes.” The Post Barthian 18 March 2023, https://postbarthian.com/2023/03/07/was-the-apostle-paul-married-yes-what-paul-a-widow-no-did-paul-abandon-his-wife-also-yes/

  23. Gretchen Baskerville. "Adultery, Abuse, Abandonment are Biblical Grounds for Divorce", Lifesaving Divorce https://lifesavingdivorce.com/


 


Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

  • Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Book 1

  • The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

  • Because She Was Called: from Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church, imagines Mary Magdalene's trip to testify before the emperor


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