Tuesday, May 5, 2009

1 Corinthians 7 Revisited

In my last post I spent time exploring 1 Corinthians 7 and tying it in to the New Creation Rule that Paul states in Galatians 6:16 should be the standard of every believer.

Today we will revisit 1 Corinthians 7—and look at the remainder of the passage. If you thought the beginning portion was amazing, you ain’t seen nothing yet…

Let’s look at verses 29 through 31:

29This is what I mean, brothers:(AJ) the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy(AK) as though they had no goods, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For(AL) the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31, ESV)

All the advice Paul has given in chapter 7 about remaining in the current state is because “the present form of this world is passing away” (v.31). Everything on earth is temporary, which means that its time is short anyway. According to Simon J. Kistemaker in his “New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians”:

“Paul is telling the Corinthians to reject a Gentile perspective on time and to adopt the view that GOD’S KINGDOM HAS INVADED THIS WORLD AND IS TRANSFORMING IT (Matt. 11:12). For this reason, believers should have a broad outlook on life and FOCUS ON ETERNAL ESSENTIALS” (Kistemaker, 242, 243).

When referring to a Gentile perspective, Paul is not talking about the “ethnic” group, but the idea of time as defined by those who are EARTHLY-MINDED. For those whose minds dwell on things on this earth, mortal life is all about what a person can have for themselves, what makes them happy. Paul tells the Corinthian believers not to get “caught up” or absorbed into earthly things—because “I say this for your own benefit…to secure your UNDIVIDED DEVOTION TO THE LORD” (1 Cor. 7:35b, ESV). Having a wife, for example, would cause the husband or wife to split their time between Christ AND their mate; possessing lots of things would invest all the believer’s time into making sure they can KEEP their wealth. And all this does is take time away from the Lord. The person is distracted by virtue of adding other people (or things) into their relationship with the Lord.

Kistemaker is also right in that “God’s Kingdom has invaded this world and is transforming it (as indicated by Matthew 11:12). John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, preached to the masses, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is AT HAND” (Matt. 3:2, ESV). In his eyes, the Kingdom hadn’t arrived yet, but it was near, close by, right around the corner. Jesus even preached it Himself (Matt. 4:17); He taught the disciples how to pray and taught them to pray “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10); in addition, He even told the disciples that the Kingdom of God had come through His miracles:

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God HAS COME UPON YOU” (Matt. 12:28, ESV).

The Kingdom of God was near when proclaimed by John the Baptist; when Christ came on the scene and began to heal and perform miracles, the Kingdom of God arrived. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “The Kingdom of God does not consist in TALK but in POWER”; and if this is true, then when Jesus’ power manifested itself through miracles, then the miracles themselves became a VISIBLE SIGN of the Kingdom of God on earth. However, as with New Creation Theology, there is an aspect of the Kingdom that has not come to earth yet. This is why an announcement of the Kingdom was made from Heaven:

"Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15, ESV).

Yes, even though Christ announced that the Kingdom had come through His miracles, there was an aspect that hadn’t arrived yet.

So if this holds true, then, in a sense, the Kingdom IS ALREADY HERE! And if one aspect of the Kingdom is already here, then we should be living Kingdom principles in the here and now.

And this is why complementarianism as a view is quite offensive to me: because complementarians claim that Kingdom principles are to be lived IN THE NEW KINGDOM and ON THE NEW EARTH. Thomas Schreiner, in his chapter titled “Head Coverings, Prophecy, and The Trinity” (in “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” by John Piper and Wayne Grudem) writes regarding the activity of Corinthian women:

“It may be that the Corinthian women had fallen prey to an overrealized
eschatology, and they thought they were like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30),transcending sexual distinctions” (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, page 131).

Schreiner, as well as other complementarians such as Andreas Kostenberger, assume that the problem at the Corinthian and Ephesian churches was that the women there were acting on principles that would come with the Kingdom; but that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do as believers—for we are charged with the task of living as though God’s Kingdom were on earth in all its glory!!

Regarding 1 Corinthians 7, Simon Kistemaker writes once more:

“Hence, Paul instructs the Corinthians to view marriage, sorrow, joy, possessions, business, and service IN LIGHT OF THE NEW ERA WHICH THE CHRISTIAN FAITH HAS INAUGURATED…Christians should understand that as the present form of this world passes away (v.31), THE COMING OF GOD’S KINGDOM CONTINUES AND TOUCHES ALL ASPECTS OF HUMAN LIFE” (“New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians,” page 243).

Our eschatology as believers is not just some theoretical information in our heads: it’s something that should rule our hearts and minds, and influence our behavior. Complementarians cannot have it both ways—they cannot affirm principles of eternity while denying them in time…for the past, present, and future are all simultaneously before God. We’ll continue to look at New Creation Theology in my next post.

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