CHRISTIAN LIFE and WORSHIP
Matthew 19:4-6 - "Haven't you read," he answered (Jesus to the Pharisees on the matter of divorce), "that the one who created them from the beginning 'made them male and female' and said: 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two separate people but one. No man therefore must separate what God has joined together."
1 Corinthians 7:1-16,25-40 - Now let me (Paul) deal with the questions raised in your letter. It is a good principle for a man to have no physical contact with women. Nevertheless, because casual liaisons are so prevalent, let every man have his own wife and every woman her own husband. The husband should give his wife what is due to her as his wife, and the wife should be as fair to her husband. The wife has no longer full rights over her own person, but shares them with her husband. In the same way the husband shares his personal rights with his wife. Do not cheat each other of normal sexual intercourse, unless of course you both decide to abstain temporarily to make special opportunity for fasting and prayer. But afterwards you should resume relations as before, or you will expose yourselves to the obvious temptation of the devil.
I give the advice above more as a concession than as a command. I wish that all men were like myself (Paul's unmarried and celibate life dedicated to God and the Gospel of Jesus), but I realise that everyone has his own particular gift from God, some one thing and some another. Yet to those who are unmarried or widowed, I say definitely that it is a good thing to remain unattached, as I am. But if they find they have not the gift of self-control in such matters, by all means let them get married. I think it is far better for them to be married than to be tortured by unsatisfied desire.
To those who are already married my command, or rather, the Lord's command, is that the wife should not leave her husband. But if she is separated from him she should either remain unattached or else be reconciled to her husband. A husband is not, in similar circumstances, to divorce his wife.
Advice over marriage between Christian and pagan
To other people my advice (not a divine command, but Paul's own prayerful advice) is this. For a brother who has a non-Christian wife who is willing to live with him he should not divorce her. A wife in a similar position should not divorce her husband. For the unbelieving husband is, in a sense, consecrated by being joined to the person of his wife; the unbelieving wife is similarly "consecrated" by the Christian brother she has married. If this were not so then your children would bear the stains of paganism, whereas they are actually consecrated to God.
But if the unbelieving partner decides to separate, then let there be a separation. The Christian partner need not consider himself bound in such cases. Yet God has called us to live in peace, and after all how can you, who are a wife, know whether you will be able to save your husband or not? And the same applies to you who are a husband. .....
Marriage - continued
In present circumstances it is really better not to marry
(Verse 25 ....) Now as far as young unmarried women are concerned, I must confess that I have no direct commands from the Lord. Nevertheless, I give you my considered opinion (again) as of one who is, I think, to be trusted after all his experience of God's mercy.
My opinion is this, that amid all the difficulties of the present time you would do best to remain just as you are. Are you married? Well, don't try to be separated. Are you unattached? Then don't try to get married. But if you, a man, should marry, don't think that you have done anything sinful. And the same applies to young woman. Yet I believe that those who take this step are bound to find the married state an extra burden in these critical days, and I should like you to be as unencumbered as possible, All our futures are so foreshortened, indeed, that those who have wives should live, so to speak, as though they had none! There is no time to indulge in sorrow, no time for enjoying our joys; those who buy have no time to enjoy their possessions, and indeed their every contact with the world must be as light as possible, for the present scheme of things is rapidly passing away. That is why I should like you to be as free from worldly entanglements as possible. The unmarried man is free to concern himself with the Lord's affairs, and how he may please him. But the married man is sure to be concerned with matters of this world, that he may please his wife. You find the same differences in the case of the unmarried and the married woman. The unmarried concerns herself with the Lord's affairs, and her aim in life is to make herself holy, in body and in spirit. But the married woman must concern herself with the things of this world, and her aim will be to please her husband.
I tell you these things to help you; I am not putting difficulties in your path but setting before you an ideal, so that your service of God may be as far as possible free from worldly distractions.
But marriage is not wrong
But if any man feels he is not behaving honourably towards the woman he loves, especially as she is beginning to lose her first youth and the emotional strain is considerable, let him do what his heart tells him to do - let them be married, there is no sin in that. Yet for the man of steadfast purpose who is able to bear the strain and has his own desires well under control, if he decides not to marry the young woman, he too will be doing the right thing. Both of them are right, one in marrying and the other in refraining from marriage, but the latter has chosen the better of two right courses.
A woman is bound to her husband while he is alive, but if he dies she is free to marry whom she likes - but let her be guided by the Lord. In my opinion she would be happier to remain as she is, unmarried. And I think I am here expressing not only my opinion, but the will of the Spirit as well.
1 Timothy 5:14a - My advice (Paul's) is that younger widows should, normally, marry again, bear children and run their own households.
Hebrews 13:4 - Both honourable marriage and chastity should be respected by all of you. God himself will judge those who traffic in the bodies of others or defile the relationship of marriage.
- See also Divorce, Husbands, Sexual Relations in Marriage, Wives:
Matthew 4:3-4 - "If you really are the Son of God," said the tempter coming to him, "tell these stones to turn into loaves." (The devil, to the hungry Jesus after fasting for 40 days in the desert). Jesus answered, "The scripture says 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'"
Matthew 6:19-21 - "Don't pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!"
Luke 12:15-21 - ".... be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man's real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions." Then he (Jesus) gave them a parable in these words, "Once upon a time a rich man's farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?' Then he said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods and I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and have a good time!' But God said to him, 'You fool, this very night you will be asked for your soul! Then, who is going to possess all that you have prepared? That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned."
1 Timothy 6:6-8 - There is a real profit, of course (Paul describing the pursuit of wealth), but it comes only to those who live contentedly as God would have them live. We brought absolutely nothing with us when we entered the world and we can be sure we shall take absolutely nothing with us when we leave it. Surely then, as far as physical things are concerned, it is sufficient for us to keep our bodies fed and clothed.
the MATERIAL UNIVERSE
1 Timothy 4:4-5 - Everything God made is good, and is meant to be gratefully used, not despised. The holiness or otherwise of a certain food, for instance, depends not on its nature but on whether it is eaten thankfully or not. It is consecrated by the man who has accepted the message, and thanks God for food.
Matthew 18:3-4 - "Believe me," he (Jesus) said, "unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven."
Romans 5:3-5a - .... we have (not) only a hope of future joys (in heaven) - we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.
Romans 12:1-2 - With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I (Paul) beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3 - It is not easy to think that we "know" over problems like this (meat sacrificed to idols), but we should remember that while knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can make him grow to his full stature. For whatever a man may know, he still has a lot to learn, but if he loves God, he is opening his whole life to the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me.
Maturity - continued
1 Corinthians 14:20 - .... don't be like excitable children but use your intelligence! By all means be innocent as babes as far as evil is concerned, but where your minds are concerned be full-grown men!
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 - Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, live like men, be strong! Let everything that you do be done in love.
Ephesians 4:14-15 - We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the crafty presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head.
Philippians 3:15-16 - All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition (to press on as Christians), and if at present you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt. It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have ourselves attained to.
Hebrews 5:11-6:3 - There is a great deal that we should like to say about this high priesthood (of Christ), but it is not easy to explain to you since you seem so slow to grasp spiritual truth. At a time when you should be teaching others, you need teachers yourselves to repeat to you the ABC of God's revelation to men. You have become people who need a milk diet and cannot face solid food! For anyone who continues to live on "milk" is obviously immature - he simply has not grown up. "Solid food" is only for the adult, that is, for the man who has developed by experience his power to discriminate between what is good and bad for him.
(Chapter 6 ...) Let us leave behind the elementary teaching about Christ and go forward to adult understanding. Let us not lay over and over again the foundation truths (keep re-learning the basics of Christian belief) - repentance from the deeds which led to death, believing in God, baptism and laying-on of hands, belief in the life to come and the final judgement. No, if God allows, let us go on.
1 Peter 4:7 - We are near the end of all things now, and you should therefore be calm, self-controlled men of prayer.
James 2:14-16 - ... what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he "has faith" if his actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone's soul? If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say, "Good luck to you I hope you'll keep warm and find enough to eat", and yet give them nothing to meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that?
Luke 6:36 - "You must be merciful, as your father in Heaven is merciful."
Matthew 6:24 - "No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time."
Hebrews 13:5a - Keep your lives free from the lust for money: be content with what you have.
1 John 3:15a - The man who actively hates his brother is a potential murderer .....
the MYSTERY OF FAITH
1 Corinthians 13:12 - At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!
1 Timothy 3:16a - No one can deny that this religion of ours is a tremendous mystery, resting as it does on the one (Jesus) who showed himself as a human being, and met, as such, every demand of the (Holy) Spirit in the sight of angels as well as of men.
Matthew 11:16-19 - "... how can I (Jesus) show what the people of this generation are like? They are like children sitting in the Market-place calling out to their friends, 'We played at weddings for you but you wouldn't dance, and we played at funerals and you wouldn't cry!' For John (the Baptist) came in the strictest austerity and people say, 'He's crazy!' Then the Son of Man came, enjoying life, and people say, 'Look, a drunkard and a glutton - the bosom-friend of the tax-collector and the sinner.' Ah, well, wisdom stands or falls by her own actions."
1 Corinthians 7:17-24 - ....... each man should live his life with the gifts that God has given him and in the condition in which God has called him. This is the rule I (Paul) lay down in all the churches.
For example, if a man was circumcised when God called him he should not attempt to remove the sign of his circumcision. If on the other hand he was uncircumcised he should not become circumcised. Being circumcised or not being circumcised, what do they matter? The great thing is to obey the orders of Almighty God. Everyone should stick to the calling in which he heard the call of God. Were you a slave when you heard the call? Don't let that worry you, though if you find an opportunity to become free you had better take it. But a slave who is called to life in Christ is set free in the eyes of God. And a man who was free when God called him becomes a slave - to Christ himself! You have been redeemed, at tremendous cost; don't therefore sell yourselves as slaves to men! My brothers, let every one of us continue to live his life with God in the state in which he was when he was called.
Colossians 3:5-10 - In so far .... as you (new Christians of Colossae) have to live upon this earth, consider yourselves dead to worldly contacts: have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty-mindedness, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and the lust for other people's goods, which last, remember, is as serious a sin as idolatry. It is because of these very things that the holy anger of God falls upon those who refuse to obey him. And never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived that old life.
But now, put all these things behind you. No more evil temper or furious rage: no more evil thoughts or words about others, no more evil thoughts or words about God, and no more filthy conversation. Don't tell each other lies any more, for you have finished with the old man and all he did and have begun life as the new man, who is out to learn what he ought to be, according to the plan of God.
Titus 3:3 - ... we ourselves have known what it is to be ignorant, disobedient and deceived, the slaves of various desires and pleasant feelings, while our lives were spent in malice and jealousy - we were hateful and we hated each other.
1 Peter 4:3-5 - Our past life may have been good enough for pagan purposes, though it meant sensuality, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousals and worshipping forbidden gods. Indeed your former companions may think it very queer that you will no longer join with them in their riotous excesses, and accordingly say all sorts of unpleasant things about you. Don't worry: they are the ones who will have to explain their behaviour before the one who is prepared to judge all men, whether living or dead.
- There are frequent references to specific types of non-Christian, Gentile or pagan behaviour in the New Testament, but there are also general lists such as the following. These are often contrasted with lists of right Christian conduct:
Matthew 15:17-20 - (After Jesus has been asked by the Pharisees and scribes why his disciples are not eating as tradition dictates, he explains ....) "It is not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him common or unclean. It is what comes out of a man's mouth that makes him unclean." "Don't you see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and then out of the body altogether? But the things that come out of a man's mouth come from his heart and mind, and it is they that really make a man unclean. For it is from a man's mind that evil thoughts arise - murder, adultery, lust, theft, perjury and blasphemy. These are the things which make a man unclean, not eating without washing his hands properly!"
Romans 1:28-32 - ... since they (men and women) considered themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God, he allowed them to become the slaves of their degenerate minds, and to perform unmentionable deeds. They became filled with wickedness, rottenness, greed and malice; their minds became steeped in envy, murder, quarrelsomeness, deceitfulness and spite. They became whisperers-behind-doors, stabbers-in-the-back, God-haters; they overflowed with insolent pride and boastfulness, and their minds teemed with diabolical invention. They scoffed at duty to parents, they mocked at learning, recognised no obligations of honour, lost all natural affection, and had no use for mercy. More than this - being well aware of God's pronouncement that all who do these things deserve to die, they not only continued their own practices, but did not hesitate to give their thorough approval to others who did the same.
1 Corinthians 5:11b - Paul's teaching here is applied to someone who professes to be a Christian, but does not live accordingly:
... I tell you not to associate with any professing Christian who is known to be an impure man or a swindler, an idolater, a man with a foul tongue, a drunkard or a thief. My instruction is: "Don't even eat with such a man
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 - Have you forgotten that the kingdom of God will never belong to the wicked? Don't be under any illusion - neither the impure, the idolater or the adulterer; neither the effeminate, the pervert or the thief; neither the swindler, the drunkard, the foul-mouthed or the rapacious shall have any share in the kingdom of God.
Non-Christian Behaviour - continued
Galatians 5:19-21 - The activities of the lower nature are obvious. Here is a list: sexual immorality, impurity of mind, sensuality, worship of false gods, witchcraft, hatred, quarrelling, jealousy, bad temper, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like that. I (Paul) solemnly assure you, as I did before, that those who indulge in such things will never inherit God's kingdom.
Ephesians 4:17-19 - This is my (Paul's) instruction .... which I give you from God. Do not live any longer as the Gentiles live. For they live blindfold in a world of illusion, and cut off from the life of God through ignorance and insensitiveness. They have stifled their consciences and then surrendered themselves to sensuality, practising any form of impurity which lust can suggest.
1 Timothy 6:4b-5a - His mind (the false teacher's) is a morbid jumble of disputation and argument, things which lead to nothing but jealousy, quarrelling, insults and malicious innuendoes - continual wrangling, in fact ....
2 Timothy 3:1-5 - .... you must realise that in the last days the times will be full of danger. Men will become utterly self-centred, greedy for money, full of big words. They will be proud and contemptuous, without any regard for what their parents taught them. They will be utterly lacking in gratitude, purity and normal human affections. They will be men of unscrupulous speech and have no control of themselves. They will be passionate and unprincipled, treacherous, self-willed and conceited, loving all the time what gives them pleasure instead of loving God. They will maintain a facade of "religion", but their conduct will deny its validity. You must keep clear of people like this.
Titus 3:3 - ... we ourselves have known what it is to be ignorant, disobedient and deceived, the slaves of various desires and pleasant feelings, while our lives were spent in malice and jealousy - we were hateful and we hated each other.
1 Peter 4:3-4a - Our past life may have ..... meant sensuality, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousals and worshipping forbidden gods. Indeed your former companions may think it very queer that you will no longer join with them in their riotous excesses .......
1 Peter 4:15 - ... take care that none of your number suffers as a murderer, or a thief, a rogue or a spy (or meddler)!
OBEDIENCE TO GOD
Matthew 7:21 - "It is not everyone who keeps saying to me 'Lord, Lord' who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the man who actually does my Heavenly Father's will."
Luke 1:38a - "I belong to the Lord, body and soul," replied Mary (on being told she would be the mother of Jesus), "let it happen as you say."
Luke 11:28 - ".... a far greater blessing (is) to hear the word of God and obey it."
Luke 22:42 - "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me - but it is not my will, but yours, that must be done." (Jesus in prayer at Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion).
1 Corinthians 7:19b - The great thing is to obey the orders of the Almighty God.
Philippians 2:8b - .... (Jesus) humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.
1 John 2:3-6 - It is only when we obey God's laws that we can be quite sure that we really know him. The man who claims to know God but does not obey his laws is not only a liar but lives in self-delusion, In practice, the more a man learns to obey God's laws, the more truly and fully does he express his love for him. Obedience is the test of whether we really live "in God" or not. The life of a man who professes to be living in God must bear the stamp of Christ.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
Matthew 6:34 - "Don't worry at all .... about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day's trouble is enough for one day."
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J.B.Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition, published by HarperCollins, is presented here with the kind permission of Mrs Vera Phillips and the J.B.Phillips estate