Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 7 2020 - 1 Corinthians 7:1-24 – No longer our own

One of the frustrations of reading 1 Corinthians is that for much of it Paul is quite clearly answering specific questions raised by the Corinthians themselves – but we do not know the questions they asked or the specific situations that gave rise to them. It’s rather like listening to one side of a telephone conversation and trying to work out what it’s all about. I’m sure you know just how frustrating that can be and how easily we can jump to unwarranted conclusions. It’s good to take care when dealing with these chapters of 1 Corinthians so that we do not twist any passage or verse to mean what we wish it to mean.

For this reason, I want to focus on what I believe to be the main point that undergirds all of Paul’s practical teaching in the section we are reading this morning.

Twice, in the space of a few paragraphs, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth that they were bought with a price. On the first occasion, in 1 Corinthians 6:20, Paul is urging them to abstain from sexual immorality. What you do with your body matters, says Paul: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”

This principle is then worked out in relation to marriage. We are not our own, we belong to Christ. But if we are married then husband and wife belong to each other. Incidentally, Paul’s equality of language here on the relationship of husband to wife and wife to husband is quite remarkable. Paul here quite clearly undermines the assumed male domination prevalent in the first century – both within Judaism and within the Gentile world. Paul calls his married readers to work out how to live within this tension of belonging both firstly and wholly to the Lord and also wholly to one another.

On the second occasion when Paul uses this phrase, he is addressing the mixture of classes at Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). Some are slaves and some are free. Paul reminds them all that they have been bought with a price. The slave has been bought by Christ and become his freeman. The free person has been bought by Christ and has become his slave. Whoever we may be, we are called to serve him with body, mind and strength.

Paul’s words in these verses bring to my mind the wonderful first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563. The disciple in the Christian faith is asked, “What is your only comfort, in life and in death?” And the answer which they are to learn and repeat is as follows, “That I belong – body and soul, in life and in death – not to myself but to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

Now that’s a question and answer well worth learning and loving. We belong to Christ as his purchased possession. We are not our own. This is not only a call to live a godly life, it is also our greatest comfort and joy in life and in death.

Father God, I praise you that I am not my own but have been bought with a price. Help me by your Spirit no longer to live to myself but entirely for him who loved me and gave himself for me.

Peter Misselbrook