This phrase occurs in our Corinthians chapter (7) today. It is a chapter that is not as clear in meaning in some sections as we would like, but it becomes clearer as we take a contextual view of the flow of Paul’s reasoning. As we have read in the preceding chapters the large ecclesia at Corinth is in a real spiritual mess. The members were largely from a pagan background, the Jews had “opposed and reviled him” [Acts 18 v.6] when Paul preached in their synagogue at Corinth. One point Paul had stressed in writing to the ecclesia (ch. 5 & 6) was about the extensive immorality they were failing to deal with and the fact that members were even going to law against one another. Given the rapidly increasing immoral atmosphere in which we live, the principles revealed in this chapter apply just as much to us today.
Paul states in today’s chapter, “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” [v.35] In v. 31 he had written, “for the present form of this world is passing away”. That is surely also true of our world.
Actually it was nearly 200 years before the city was totally wrecked by the barbarians. The city had a 1700 year history of greatness, but the ecclesia there failed to continue and make any mark on history. The only way for an individual to survive was to have “undivided devotion to the Lord”. Did you note in yesterday’s chapter (6) that Paul gave a list of those who will not have a place in God’s kingdom. Notice he does not just list those who practice what we would call the worst forms of behaviour, but he says the kingdom will not include “thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers” …. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified … “ [v.10,11] Sanctified means counted as holy, may we never cease to be so counted.
The ever more evil world of Corinth was destroying the believers devotion to their Lord. Recall how the previous chapter concluded – before he made these points! He told them, “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you … you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” A lesson few had learnt! Are we failing to learn this today?
Some claiming to be Christians today make much in their imagination of possessing the Holy Spirit; but, the Scriptures show it is really the other way round, the Holy Spirit possesses us, but we only realize that, if we give the Lord our “undivided devotion.”