Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 11 2013 - 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, 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.

Aug 11 2019 - Psalm 100 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving

Psalm 100 is quite short, but it is a fitting response to yesterday's reading in Isaiah 35.

This psalm calls upon all the earth to join together in joyful praise of God. He is deserving of praise because he is our creator; we owe our life and breath to him along with the innumerable blessings of this present life. In the words of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:11 we acknowledge:

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created  and have their being.

And in recognising that "It is he who made us" (Ps 100:3), we recognise that he is the creator of everything and that all things owe him their thanks and praise.

Secondly, we worship the Lord because he is our great redeemer. The Lord Jesus laid down his life for the sheep and is risen from the dead to be the great Shepherd of his people. In the words of Revelation 5:12, we come before God with thanksgiving and praise saying:

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honour and glory and praise!

Our God is good and his love endures for ever. That love has been most clearly displayed in Jesus. It is love that will not let us go, a love that will bring us safe to glory and then embrace us for all eternity (Romans 8:38-39). We are thankful that we have experienced the greatness of God's love and we want all the earth to come into the embrace of that love.

If our lives were dominated by thankfulness towards God and characterised by a spirit of praise, do you not think that they would attract others to Christ as a pot of honey attracts wasps? How might praise change our lives and transform our witness to Christ?

Billy Bray was born in Cornwall in 1794. After a life of hard work and drunkenness, he came to a knowledge of salvation through the preaching of Methodists and the Hymns of Wesley. He was soundly converted and his life was transformed. It is well worth reading an account of his life. Here is a short extract from one brief account:

Happiness now became a marked feature of Billy's life. His happiness was real, and he did not try to conceal it. Some did not like him shouting and singing for joy. But Billy would reply, "The Devil would rather see us doubting than hear us shouting… If they were to put me in a barrel, I would shout 'glory' out through the bunghole. I can say glory, glory: I can sing glory, glory: I can dance glory, glory."

This happiness characterised Billy even as he was walking along the street: "I lift up one foot, and it seems to say 'glory', and I lift up the other, and it seems to say, 'Amen': and so they keep on like that all the time that I am walking."

Billy told everyone he met how happy he was. He told them because he wanted them to seek happiness in the same way.

Billy Bray's life made a deep impression on others and he was used to draw many to faith in the Lord Jesus. What might God do through our lives if they were marked by similarly irrepressible thanks and praise?

Lord, I am rather reserved and not keen on attracting attention by shouting out with joyful praise of you. By your Spirit make me like those first disciples who could not but speak of the things they had seen and heard. So use me for the extension of your kingdom and the glory of your name.

Peter Misselbrook