We live in a world of lots of news – a continuous flow of what’s new.
“The times they are a-changing”
One thing that doesn’t change is human nature.
In the OT reading we see people with the same shortcomings as written about in the NT reading and as we see it in people in the world today.
- Young Samuel started out as a boy helper in the Temple with the priest, Eli in charge.
- Eli had two sons who worked with him as priests in the temple – men who were described as “scoundrels who had no regard for the Lord”.
- They took the best cuts of meat that was meant for sacrifice to the Lord and grew fat on it.
- They took it by bullying and threatening worshippers, taking by force what had been brought as a sacrifice to the Lord, treating the offering with contempt.
- They committed adultery with prostitutes.
- The Lord warned Eli who rebuked his sons, but none of them changed their ways.
- Eli honoured his sons more than God; he would have sacked anyone else but he allowed them to continue because they were his sons.
- The three of them were guilty of favouritism, nepotism, corruption, adultery, bullying, violence, blasphemy, theft.
- Does anyone do such things nowadays – about 3,000 years later – or does this sound like headlines in one of our news broadcasts?
It was still happening in NT times, which is why the Corinthians received a warning.
Priests and prophets of the Lord should not have behaved as did Eli and his sons.
It was just as disgraceful that Christians in Corinth were behaving so badly that they were taking each other to court:
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers!
Here is something we rarely think about because it is so hard to visualise, to comprehend. We are heirs and co-heirs with Christ. After he returns we will find ourselves forgiven, cleansed and ruling with Christ in his kingdom. We will see as well as he does what is right and wrong and be able to judge the difference between them.
In these few words we are reminded that as Christians we have available to us the wisdom and righteousness of God – and that surely makes us equipped to sort out differences between us. Our eternal status in Christ is amazingly wonderful, a gift of such grace and enormity. We don’t need the judgement of people outside the kingdom of God.
People who are outside of Christ’s kingdom do not follow and cannot possibly understand God’s way of thinking and what he tells us in the Bible; so they are incompetent when it comes to passing judgement on Christians.
The passage goes on to say, (7-11)
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
A failure to sort things out among you is complete defeat. Let it go! You do not belong to the immoral world around you. You are set apart. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
We don’t get into heaven because we keep commandments and rules. We don’t get right with God because we are law-abiding, moral people. We don’t earn God’s acceptance by anything we do. God accepts us into his kingdom because Jesus was crucified to pay for our rebellion against his kingship, giving us forgiveness, washing, sanctification, justification. When we face God it’s just as if we had never sinned.
We are in the kingdom of God, having eternal life, no matter what we do. We have the right to do anything we want but because we are in the kingdom of God, having eternal life we don’t do just anything we want.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’
In the early days of the church people who were born Jews became Christians and there were some who told them that they still had to obey all the old Jewish laws. The Apostle Peter was even confronted by the Lord who presented him with a display of all the things his Jewish learning told him were unclean and should not be eaten, only to be told by Jesus that nothing is unclean, so go ahead and eat.
Others had to learn from the Apostle Paul that even eating food which had been offered to idols was OK – as long as doing so did not make life harder for fellow Christians.
So it is true that, as Christians, we have the right to do anything – but clearly not everything is beneficial. Indeed many things are downright harmful or hurtful. There are good reasons NOT to do some of the things we have a right to do.
The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh. But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”
How we behave will be very much affected by these truths!
As we read in Psalm 139:1-3
Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways. Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether.
Your body is a member of Christ himself. We ask ourselves would Jesus want his body taken where I am going, do what I am doing, think what I am thinking? Your body – you, yourself – are a temple of the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself, who is in you, whom you have received from God.
Is what you are doing, saying, thinking, feeling, suitable for the Temple of the Holy Spirit?
Who do you belong to, anyway? You are not your own – you were bought by God at the price of Jesus’ life.
Because of this, whatever you do, say or think – choose it to be beneficial, worthwhile, useful, and constructive. Honour God with your bodies – not to win God’s favour but because you already have his favour!
As adopted children of our Father, God Almighty, we want to follow his standards as best we can.
But should we expect non-Christians to do the same?
We have the Bible to tell us how to behave, what to believe, what morals to follow but is it our role to tell others how to behave, what to believe, what morals to follow?
Does it work when we try?
We follow the standards set for us Christians because that pleases our Father. We do what is suitable for members of the body of Christ, what you would expect in the temple of the Holy Spirit. We do what is honouring to God. We follow the standards that are best for us, standards that are the most beneficial.
But when we encourage non-Christians to follow these standards they more often than not object to us telling them what to do, of ‘ramming the Bible down their throats’, of being judgemental, of being hateful.
I think it would be irresponsible and unloving if we don’t explain to people what God thinks they should do – because his ways are the best ways. People would be so much better off following God’s ways. Our society and culture would be a much more pleasant place to enjoy if we all followed God’s ways. We can advise and encourage people to do this but experience shows that we cannot insist on it. Actually, the Bible also says we cannot insist that non-Christians follow God’s way – because God doesn’t.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts …
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”
Put simply, God says to non-Christians, “OK – ignore me if you want; do it your way; follow your heart’s desire; no matter how wrong your thinking may be, how misled your desires; I give you over to them – and to the consequences.”
God does not force people to follow his standards, to submit to his right to rule their lives. On the contrary he allows people to rebel against his kingship, live their lives as rebels and accept the consequences of their rebellion.
That’s why, as 1 Corinthians 6 tells us, it is wrong to allow us Christians to be judged by non-Christians. We don’t let non-Christians set the standards for Christians. God has set his standards for us so clearly for us in the Bible.
The non-Christian world will tell us our beliefs and standards are out of date, that they were suitable for another culture but not ours. They compromise by accepting parts of the Bible that suit their purposes, and want us to compromise by accepting their ideas.
But, as it has always been, non-Christian thinking misses the point, loses touch with God and does not know Jesus who is the way, the truth and the light.
Thankfully there is so much in our society which is based on Christian thinking and morals and so many people who still live primarily by Christian teaching.
Regrettably, though, more and more we see these standards being eroded, even dismissed and rationalised away.
Think again about the things Eli and his sons did along with those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6 and which offended God so much and ask, “how many of these things are seen as acceptable or excusable by many in our society?”
Favouritism, nepotism, corruption, bullying, bribery, violence, sex outside marriage, blasphemy, theft, lying, cheating, drunkenness, slandering, swindling
So, they go their way, and we Christians go the Lord’s way.
We are encouraged by this wonderful truth as we read it in Romans chapter 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
And as we saw in 1 Corinthians chapter 6:11,19-20
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God….Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”