SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
And all of those he sums up with the expression:
... those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.
So this is basically the Pauline equivalent of what John teaches in the Johannine, letters that Christians are called to live in
the world but to not be of
the world. James talks about this too. It’s in the Catholic epistle. So for a lot of people, they puzzle, like, what does that mean to be in the world but not of the world?
Well, Paul here gives us the answer. Basically, it’s in the last line:
...the form of this world is passing away.
So what Paul is saying is, he’s trying to teach the Corinthians that although they still live in the old creation, as Christians, they need to recognize the truth of the fact that this fallen world is dying. It’s in the death throes. It’s passing away. It’s not eternal, like some of the pagans thought. It’s not going to last forever, like some of the pagans thought. It is going to end. And therefore, we have to live—in our dealings with the world—with that truth in mind, whether it’s the question of our relationship to our spouses or the relationship to our loved ones who we’ve lost (for whom we’re mourning)...or our relationship to our possessions or our activities in this world. All those things have to be done through the lens of the fact that the form of this world is passing away.
So I always joke with my students here, when Paul says:
...those who have wives live as though they had none…
That doesn’t mean treat your wife poorly or forget to call her if you’re on a business trip or something like that. “I’m sorry, honey. I was living as if I had no wife.” That’s not what Paul means here. What he’s effectively teaching here in 1 Corinthians 7 is detachment—living a spirit of detachment now—from the world that we know is eventually going to pass away.
Now, a lot of students when they read these verses—and I’ve had this experience myself as you first encounter Paul—kind of find it a little harsh. Like, if I’m married, why should I live as though I have no wife? Or if I’m engaged in business, why should I live as though I have no possessions? Or if I live in the world, why should I pretend that I have no dealings with it? What is Paul really getting at here? What’s the problem with rejoicing?
And the answer to that question is Paul’s not being harsh; he’s actually being realistic. Because the fact is, no matter how good any created thing is in this world (in the old creation), it’s going to come to an end. So being overly attached to anything is unreasonable, if you step back from it and look at it from the perspective of the old and the new creation...from a Christian worldview. And the fact of the matter is that many Christians live in this world as if they are of the world and as if the world is going to keep going and going, forever and ever, and that the temporary and finite and passing goods that we have are in fact forever.
And they’re not….even the good of marriage, as Paul already has talked about in 1 Corinthians 7. When a husband dies, the wife is free from the marriage covenant. It ends with death. And every single married person is going to either bury their spouse or be buried by their spouse. That’s part of what you sign up for in marriage. So it’s reasonable to keep in mind and to live with a certain detachment from that reality—to not be overly attached to one’s spouse or one’s loved ones. They’re going to die as well.
It’s one of the realities parents have to think of. When I bring a child into the world, it’s beautiful. I give it life. But I also give it the gift of death. Eventually, my children—whether I see it or not—they’re all going to pass away. That’s a sobering reality, but it’s the truth.
So Paul here is trying to get the Corinthians to think this way about the way they live in the world. And effectively here, what he’s doing is teaching the Christians in Corinth to live in a spirit of detachment. Or you could put it positively...he’s teaching them not to be excessively attached to the passing things of this world.
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