There is an apostasy.
You know what that means? It means a falling away from the faith. There are people that you know who once named the name of Christ, who once sat next to you in church, who once worshiped with you, who are no longer apart.
They have fallen away. The Apostle Paul ministered to the Corinthians through his letter, guiding them in godly living. And today on Connect with Skip Heitzig, Skip shares about more problems the early church faced, giving you insight on how you can live out God's calling for you today.
But before we begin, we want to share about a resource that will help you experience hope and renewal in your life. Life is hard, and then we die. That is a harsh but accurate philosophy. Listen to this gentle encouragement. But God.
That's right. In the most difficult circumstances, God can intervene as he did for Joseph, Job, and through the resurrection of Jesus. Here's Skip Heitzig. In fact, there may not be two more hopeful words than these two words, but God, because they point us to the great interrupter, the one who can powerfully and graciously interrupt our lives with his plans and change our lives forever. We want to help you understand some of the Bible's most profound but God moments so you can have more hope for change in your own life. Pastor Skip's 10 message teaching series, But God, is our thanks when you give $35 or more today to help connect more people to the only one who can radically change a life.
Get your But God CD collection today when you give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer, or call 800-922-1888. Okay, let's get into today's teaching. We're in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 as we begin our study with Skip Heitzig. Early this morning when I was having my devotions, I was reading Psalm 26. And there's a little section in that Psalm that spoke to my heart where the Psalmist said, I have loved the habitation of your house. And then a few verses later, he goes on to say, my foot stands in an even place in the congregation.
I will bless the Lord. And that spoke to me in particular because I have loved the habitation of the Lord's house. I have loved where God dwells. He dwells among his people.
And I was just thinking back over 40 years. 40 years ago, we moved from California to New Mexico and planted a Bible study that became this church. 40 years, it has been my joy to teach the word of God verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, Old Testament, New Testament, then do it again and again and again and again. And I have loved the habitation of the Lord's house. This has been my life. This has been my world. This vantage point has been much of my existence. I have given my life for it and I would do it again. And I have just loved it so much that I get to be with God's people, seeing so many things the Lord has done through the people of this place, this church around the world. I have loved the habitation of his house. And I have stood in the congregation with you and blessed the Lord through the years.
So I was thinking about that. My mind went back through the years and I just, that verse spoke to me. Now, when we started this church, let me rephrase that. When anybody plants a church, they typically don't foresee problems or they don't think about those problems.
They don't really anticipate what problems they'll have. Some of my staff members have gone out and planted churches. Kevin, you planted a church.
You were 11 years in Tennessee. When you started that church, you were so excited. But I remember the phone calls, the issues, the problems that come up. You don't, you know they're going to come, but you don't like when they do come.
But they come. And Paul is experiencing a little bit of that. He planted a church in Corinth. It was a great joy for him to travel through the known world and put down spiritual roots and share the gospel and get a group of people and not only win them to faith in Christ, but mature them in their walk with Christ.
And then to have to leave that place and hear about what things are going on, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes you'd write a letter and say your faith is being spoken of all over the world. He wrote to the Thessalonian church and said that. And I'm sure there were some positive, great things about the Corinthian church. In fact, we'll notice a few of them as we progress. It was a work of God in a very difficult place. But there were problems that came up.
And we have noted several of them so far and we'll note more of them as we go through. So Paul is in Ephesus when he gets word that the Corinthians are struggling with a unity issue. He hears that from a church member in Corinth. Then he gets letters from different Corinthian members that ask questions, questions that he didn't address when he planted the church. And so the book follows the outline of Paul addressing the concerns of the household that told him about the disunity, followed by Paul answering questions about issues that came up.
And we noted last week in chapter 7, the first issue that he addresses, the first question that the Corinthians had was about marriage and divorce, singleness versus the status of marriage, verse 1 of chapter 7, now concerning. And that's a tip-off that he is dealing with an issue that they wrote him about. When he says now concerning, he is addressing a different topic altogether.
He is changing topics. And it's a topic about something they asked him of, for he says, now concerning the things of which you wrote to me. Happens again in chapter 8, verse 1. Now concerning things offered to idols. They obviously had a question about that. In chapter 12, verse 1, he begins, same wording, now concerning spiritual gifts.
And that was an issue they struggled with. And he writes chapters 12, 13 as a hiatus, and chapter 14 about spiritual gifts and the balance of their exercise within the church. In the middle of chapter 7, which is where we left off last time, is another now concerning. And that takes us to verse 26, or verse 25, now concerning virgins, which is a strange way to begin a sentence. I think I mentioned last week, you probably know this, but I'm not going to probably have never begun a conversation with those words. Now concerning virgins.
But Paul did, because it was an issue they asked him about. And so, as just by way of introduction, a little bit into last week's study, Paul begins by saying that celibacy, singleness, is good. It's something that is good. In verse 1 of chapter 7, concerning the things of which he wrote to me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. And he is addressing celibacy, a man who decides to stay single and celibate his entire life. He says that's good. And then in verse 8, but I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. And then if you go down to verse 26, I suppose, therefore, this is good because of the present distress that is, it is good for a man to remain as he is.
So it's good. Celibacy, singleness, is good, and we will see tonight in many ways, Paul said, is preferable to those who are married because they can live an undistracted life in serving the Lord. However, having said that singleness with celibacy is good, he quickly says, but it's not the only good.
There's other things that are good as well and to be considered. And I mentioned back in Genesis chapter 2, where the Lord said, it is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helper.
I will make a helper that is comparable to him. And God instituted a man and a woman coming together in marriage. So back to chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, verse 6 of chapter 7, but I say this as a concession, not as a commandment, for I wish that all men were even as I myself, but each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. Some people have a gift to be single. Other people have a gift to be married. Go with your gift, Paul would say. Go with your gift. If you have that gift to serve the Lord as a single person, good. Go with it. If you don't have that gift, but you have the gift to do it with a helper that is comparable to you, like in Genesis chapter 2, go with it.
Go with the gift. So that takes us to chapter 7, verse 25, which is the second part and really the part I want to address tonight, and we'll finish this off. Now concerning virgins.
Evidently somebody asked him a question. What about people who have never gotten married? Now he addresses at the beginning of this chapter the unmarried he mentions, the unmarried and the virgins, the unmarried agamas in Greek. Here the virgins in particular, which would be a subset of the unmarried, right?
And the Greek word he uses here is parthenoi. So you have agamoi, which is the unmarried people, plural, and the parthenoi, the virgin people in particular. And because of all the times in this chapter when Paul uses the word virgin, he uses it with a feminine gender, he has in his mind not just young people who have never gotten married, but in particular girls who have never gotten married. So either he is addressing daughters of fathers, and the fathers were in control of the future marital status of their daughters, all right? We know that the fathers had complete control in those days, and fathers would decide who you're going to marry, when you're going to marry, etc.
That was all part of the deal. So he has in mind either the daughters of fathers who are believers in the church of Corinth, or some scholars don't agree with that, and they think he's talking to young girls who are engaged or want to be married, have a relationship, and are moving toward marriage. So he's either writing to daughters of fathers, and the fathers are struggling with should I let my daughter get married or not, or he is talking about young girls who are engaged to be married or want to be married. He's addressing one of those two groups. We're not sure, so I'm not going to be dogmatic about it, but it's interesting that different New Testament translations take different interpretive tacks on that, and they don't all agree.
So it's one of those two things. Concerning virgins, Parthenoi, and he's writing in the feminine, I have no commandment from the Lord, yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in his mercy has made trustworthy. Apparently, there were a group of people, and we know that these were prevalent in the early church, because this group grew as the church aged, as it went from the first century to the second century to the third century. There were a group of people who were ascetics. I don't know if you know what an ascetic is or asceticism. Asceticism is the idea of complete self-denial. So an ascetic will live in a monastery. An ascetic will put clothes on that hurt him or itch him. An ascetic will not eat nice food, but eat bad food, bland food, and spend his or her life in contemplation.
It's somebody who lives out apart from the world, so they might give their attention to the Lord, usually in very meager settings and very painful settings. That's an ascetic. And asceticism was an ideology of early Christians to cope with the strong pull and temptations of this world. And it seems that there were a group of ascetics in the church of Corinth already who were saying, well, you know, if you're really spiritual, you won't get married.
If you're really spiritual fathers who have virgin daughters, you won't let them get married. So it seems that that was a Paul, and that seems to be part of the questioning that they had to Paul, and that's why he's addressing it now. Now concerning virgins, he's addressing the pressure that is being put on some to remain single. But notice what he says.
Concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. Now again, he's not saying, you know, I don't know, but here's my opinion. That's not what he's saying. He's not like, yeah, I don't have any clear direction from God, so I'm just going to sort of make this up as I go along.
He's not saying that. He's saying, I have no previous revelation from the Scripture. Jesus didn't in particular teach on this matter, but now He is going to teach on this matter.
He is going to give direction. He is going to give inspirational direction, for you'll notice He says, I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. You can take what I have to say to the bank, just like what Jesus taught on marriage and divorce in Matthew 5 and in Matthew 19.
I am going to tell you some things, and what I have to say are words that are trustworthy. Also, go to the very last verse of this chapter and notice that He says, but she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment, and I think I also have the Spirit of God. So Paul believed he was writing under the inspiration and by the authority of the Holy Spirit, and that by God's mercy, he was speaking trustworthy words. Also, just to add a little weight to that, I'm going to remind you of 1 Corinthians chapter 4, where he says in verse 1, let a man so consider us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. Paul is describing himself as a faithful steward of the mysteries of God that he is proclaiming. So there's no lack of authority.
He's not shooting from the hip. He's not saying, here's my own personal opinion. I don't really know what God has to say in this, but how about this?
Not at all. It is to be taken as Scripture. It is to be taken as authoritative for life and practice, just like the words of Jesus.
That's what he means when he says, I have no commandment from the Lord, no previously given revelation, yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in his mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose, therefore, that this is good because of the present distress that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Paul is referencing some issue, some problem, some distress in the culture or in the world. We don't know exactly what it is, but he's making reference to it and he's saying, the reason it's preferable to be as I am, and that is single and unencumbered, single and celibate, unencumbered, conserved the Lord, is because of the present distress.
Now, what does he mean? Number one, he's speaking about a local issue that was happening only at Corinth. If that's the case, we have no real idea what that is, but it could be that there was some local pressure that was being put on by city government, by council members, by unbelievers in the city, in the region, and it was localized at Corinth. Number two, the present distress could be the fact that, look, Jesus is going to return. There's going to be some tribulation that is coming. So, you know, look, the Lord's coming too quickly.
I don't think he means that. Or, and this is where I tend to lean, either number one or number three, that there is a persecution on the horizon that Paul is sensing. He sees a coming. He's traveled the world. He's traveled throughout that whole region beyond where the Corinthians are just in Corinth. He's been in Corinth. He's been in Athens. He's been in Philippi. He's been in Thessalonica. He's been in Antioch of Pisidia and Antioch of Syria. He's now in Ephesus. Wherever he goes, he is noting a mounting persecution against the church, and probably he is referring to the present distress as this growing hostility among unbelievers that it will eventuate in persecution.
We do know that happened. Between the second and the fourth centuries, especially under several of the Roman Caesars, there was an unbridled amount of persecution. Christians were being killed, being slaughtered.
It was very common practice, and you can read about that. I don't have time, and I have told you about it in the past, but it could be that he is referring to that when he says the present distress. You and I live in an era where I would say, even though we're not Corinth and this is not the first century, in this century we are living in a present distress. There are things happening around us and on the horizon, and I wonder if you spot them. I wonder if you feel them. I wonder if you sense them.
I have a hunch you do. First of all, there is an apostasy. You know what that means. It means a falling away from the faith. There are people that you know who once named the name of Christ, who once sat next to you in church, who once worshiped with you, who are no longer apart. They have fallen away. John writes about this and said they went out from us, but they showed basically they were never really of us, for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us. Paul the apostle said in the last days, many will fall away from the faith and give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines taught by demons. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said before the coming of the Lord there will be a great falling away, an apostasia.
That's what apostasy means. That's happening. We're seeing it. I'm seeing it in greater numbers than I have ever seen it before, but there's something else happening, though that is happening. It's probably always happened, though I'm sensing it in a greater degree presently. There's also a growing hostility toward us, an antipathy toward the church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ.
Always has been, but I'm sensing it being ratcheted up, and I am sensing the present crisis, and I mean the world crisis, the COVID crisis, and the political crises that are a part of that around the world have magnified that. And so to speak out in truth before you could do that. There's a pastor in Canada because he spoke out about same-sex marriage. Basically he just taught what the Bible said about a man and a woman, and that's the family that God ordained to be married and nothing else is in God's eyes right. He was arrested, sentenced. Another pastor in London arrested for the same thing. A member of the Finnish parliament, a medical doctor, a gal who is an evangelical Lutheran, a medical doctor.
She's an academic because she stands up for biblical marriage and has tweeted that she is now under indictment for hate speech. We used to say, you know, that's, watch out, it's coming, it's here. We're in it. It is a present distress, and you couple that with governments who are just loving the control that they get to have because of a pandemic, just realize we are in a very unique situation.
It's being ratcheted up, and I believe ratcheted up toward the last days, and toward the last days, not just we're in the last days like Paul was 2,000 years ago, the last days of the last days before the Lord comes back. So I suppose therefore that it is good because of the present distress that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Aren't you glad I said we'll finish chapter 8 if the Lord wills? Are you bound to a wife?
Now I'll answer that. Yes, I am, happily. I'm a happily married married man. Are you bound to a wife?
Yep. Do not seek to be loose, no problem. That's Skip Heitzig with a message from the series Expound First Corinthians. Now here's Skip to share how you can keep this broadcast going strong, connecting you and many others to the Lord. God is a God of second chances. He loves you so much.
He'll take you just the way you are, even when you've made mistakes in life. We want to share this message of hope and love with people all over the world, and you can be a part of that life-changing work by giving a gift today to keep these messages coming to listeners like you. Let's continue impacting this world together for Christ. Here's how you can give right now to make that possible. Visit connectwithskip.com slash donate to give a gift. That's connectwithskip.com slash donate, or call 800-922-1888.
800-922-1888. Thank you for your generosity, and come back tomorrow as Skip Heitzig shares how you can honor God in your relationship situations, whether married or single. This is just marriage advice I would say to anybody. When you marry somebody with the idea I'm going to change that person, don't. Don't. No. You should go into the marriage, I'm allowing myself to be changed by the spirit and power of God, and that other person, if they're doing that, great. That's how it should be. Connect with Skip Heitzig is a presentation of Connection Communications, connecting you to God's never-changing truth in ever-changing times.
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