Letters of Paul

1 Corinthians

Marriage and Slavery – Discussion Questions

Questions for Further Study:
1. How do you understand Paul’s instructions to married couples, to
widows and widowers, and to “virgins” or “fiancées”?

2. In addition to the exhortation to the Corinthians not to change their status in relationship either to marriage or to slavery, Paul urges the uncircumcised not to get circumcised and the circumcised not to try to cover over their circumcision. This seems to have something to do with not changing one’s status as Jew or a Gentile, and the whole chapter may call to mind the baptismal claim of Galatians 3:28. Is this what life looks like for the community of the baptized?

3. Though the description of marriage is almost totally lacking in romance, are there signs of genuine mutuality—or is Paul’s vision of marriage here hierarchical?

4. Notice the distinction Paul makes between what he has learned “from the Lord” and his own opinion (7:10:7:12). Is this a helpful distinction when we think about Christian ethical practice today?

Questions for Discussion:

1. What can we learn from Paul’s discussion of sexual ethics in and out of marriage? Or is this all so hopelessly bound to his own time that we simply leave it aside?

2. How do you respond to Paul’s general claim that faithful people should not change their social status but should change their attitudes—those who mourn acting as if they rejoiced, those who were slaves as if they were free? Does this leave any room for Christian social action or do we simply try to make people feel better about the status quo?

3. We talk a good deal about an “inclusive” church. Does Paul’s openness to people in a variety of circumstances provide a helpful model of inclusiveness? Are there any limits to how open we should be?

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  1. Adrian Bruder

    Questions for Further Study:
    1. How do you understand Paul’s instructions to married couples, to
    widows and widowers, and to “virgins” or “fiancées”?

    When you have a wife and children you are responsible for their support and their happiness. In your responsibilities to your family their might be a pressure between your commitment to them and your commitment to GOD. If the powers and principalities of this world wanted to use leverage against a believer, I would fathom that this pressure to provide could be used as a weapon. I think Paul thought that JESUS was coming much sooner than he planned and in believing that I think his advise is wise, but he knows the fleshly desires of men, if these desires cannot be controlled, get committed.

    2. In addition to the exhortation to the Corinthians not to change their status in relationship either to marriage or to slavery, Paul urges the uncircumcised not to get circumcised and the circumcised not to try to cover over their circumcision. This seems to have something to do with not changing one’s status as Jew or a Gentile, and the whole chapter may call to mind the baptismal claim of Galatians 3:28. Is this what life looks like for the community of the baptized?

    See answer to discussion Question #3

    3. Though the description of marriage is almost totally lacking in romance, are there signs of genuine mutuality—or is Paul’s vision of marriage here hierarchical?

    Culturally it absolutely was, Paul’s writings in these chapters are more egalitarian. 1 Corinthians 7:4 is much kinder than the culture at the time. Wives and husbands belong to each other essentially.

    4. Notice the distinction Paul makes between what he has learned “from the Lord” and his own opinion (7:10:7:12). Is this a helpful distinction when we think about Christian ethical practice today?

    We become like the people we surround ourselves. If there is hope for an unbeliever, that hope would shine the brightest around the company of those who are called.

    Questions for Discussion:

    1. What can we learn from Paul’s discussion of sexual ethics in and out of marriage? Or is this all so hopelessly bound to his own time that we simply leave it aside?

    See the answer to question #1

    2. How do you respond to Paul’s general claim that faithful people should not change their social status but should change their attitudes—those who mourn acting as if they rejoiced, those who were slaves as if they were free? Does this leave any room for Christian social action or do we simply try to make people feel better about the status quo?

    Although the culture has drastically changed, we are all subject to governments, laws, boss’, church leaders. Us being Christians does not free us of these obligations. But if we have the mindset that our spirits are free in Christ, I think we carry ourselves differently; even in bondage.

    3. We talk a good deal about an “inclusive” church. Does Paul’s openness to people in a variety of circumstances provide a helpful model of inclusiveness? Are there any limits to how open we should be?

    To follow the law, or to fit the cultural norm, or to be circumcised, or to eat the right food but to have the wrong heart or mind I feel nullifies the whole point. Jesus got in as much trouble as he did stressing that. If you are focused less on a physical circumcision and more on getting a circumcised heart, I think that would make the church more inclusive than it is today. It doesn’t take very much time in church culture to see it can be worse than being in middle school.