Assembly Characteristics - 07 Rightousness

 Chapter 7

Righteousness of Saints

1 Corinthians 6-7

Local assemblies of the New Testament flourished in the midst of an ungodly world around them. They were oases of purity in an environment of degrading influences characteristic of a morally degenerate society. While the Jewish temple had unrighteous leaders, and the pagan temple encouraged licentious practices, the assembly was known for the high standards that it taught and maintained.

Those standards had been violated to some extent in the assembly at Corinth. They had allowed the moral standards of the surrounding world to creep into the assembly, something not uncommon or unknown even today. They had been affected, likely, by their persistent association with the idol’s temple (chapter 10). Yet it was not the normal condition, neither was it to be tolerated. Rather, the apostle gave teaching in 1 Corinthians 6-7 to deal with the wrong and to establish what was to be the correct standard of righteousness that should be upheld by the assembly and practiced by the saints.

Today, an assembly is to be of the same character. While the world degenerates morally and spiritually, God expects that an assembly will continue to uphold the principles taught in His Word that answer to His purpose of testimony in the world. Our standards are not to be that of the world around, religious or otherwise, but rather to be determined by the simple “thus saith the Lord.” It seems strange that it could even be possible that religious councils today meet to determine whether homosexuals should be admitted into the membership or not, even whether they should be “ordained.” There are those who advocate marriage ceremonies of those involved in such relationships as if to put their approval on them. There should be no question or debate about these issues. However, since there is, it can only mean that the Word of God has been set aside, but this condition has long been the case in many places. The authority of Christ and His Word to determine what is the moral behavior of professing Christians or what is to be the practice of a local church has long been neglected or rejected. In such an environment, God's assembly is to be marked by simple submission to the Word and an exercise to seek to know and do what the Lord desires.

The teaching of I Corinthians 6 and 7 is vital for our preservation today. The assembly, to be scriptural, must seek to maintain those principles without compromise as part of the testimony that involves the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This section touches on

Disputes Between Saints - 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

The conduct of the saints when they have a dispute between them affects the testimony of the assembly. The natural way that the unsaved take involves standing for one's rights and doing whatever is necessary to win the dispute. The teaching that the assemblies uphold has two aspects, both indicating a willingness to yield to the judgment of the assembly and to other saints. Since saints will one day judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2) and angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), there should be some brother in the assembly in whom those involved would have sufficient confidence to trust him to resolve the conflict. Any dispute between saints should never involve pursuing the avenue of the world's courts; rather, it is to be resolved internally, relying on the assembly elders and others to properly evaluate and settle the problem. This involves the obvious requirement as well, that there would be such brethren in an assembly who are exercised and able to do this. If otherwise, that failure would be a shame in the light of God's Word and its standards.

Yet, sadly, there are times when the condition of an assembly does not provide for righteous and proper resolution of a problem between two believers. Or it may be possible that one party is not willing to seek recourse to a solution by this means. What is one to do then? It seems that the second part comes into play (1 Corinthians 6:7-8), and one should be willing, if need be, to suffer loss, being wronged, rather than go to a legal court. To forego legal “rights” is difficult, but it gives one an opportunity to display the mind of Christ in humility, committing judgment into the Lord's hands (1 Peter 2:23). In this case in Corinth, Paul says that rather than being willing to “suffer wrong” (1 Corinthians 6:7), they “do wrong and defraud… your brethren” (1 Corinthians 6:8). If we recognize that all we have is actually the Lord's but He has entrusted it to us to use for Him, we should be able to allow Him to defend it for us. On the other hand, if it is lost in this way, we can look to Him to recompense far more than is lost through our submission to the principles of His Word. It is only our selfishness and self-centered condition that causes us to want to grasp and hold the things of a natural life at all costs.

There are assemblies where a legal recourse has been used, even to the point of calling police officers to settle a problem or to demand that a person leave the gathering. It seems clear that such action is contrary to the spirit and teaching regarding assembly practices. That kind of action brings dishonor to the Lord's Name and detracts from the testimony of the assembly. Morality Between Sexes - 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Since we live in a morally corrupt world, much the same as that of Corinth, surely there is continuing need for instruction about the use of the believer's body. While problems involving what foods to eat may not have great importance, it is evident that actions involving the body in immoral activities are completely wrong. What one eats today may little affect our spiritual condition, but to engage in immoral practices severely affects what one is for God. Corinth, as our world, thought little of fornication or adultery. It was an activity to be engaged in much the same as eating, for the satisfaction of bodily desires. But the assembly is called upon to maintain the high principles of God's Word, and righteous living in moral issues must be emphasized and upheld by all in assembly fellowship.

The clearest reasons are given in this section why every aspect of fornication or sexual impurity is wrong. In fact, there are six reasons why it cannot be allowed, ending in the great truth of 1 Corinthians 6:20, “ye are (were) bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body AND in your spirit, which are God's.” The two aspects of man's being are inseparable and both have been purchased through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus to be exclusively His. The body of a believer, being the temple (holy dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit, is never to be used for purposes contrary to His holy character as He guards it as Christ’s possession.

Moral conditions may degenerate (and we can expect them to decline increasingly in future days), and the religious world may (and likely will) change to accommodate such degeneration, but the assembly is called by God to be different. The moral climate of believers in the assembly is to be marked by purity, holiness, and practical righteousness that display recognition of the claims of the Lord Jesus individually and collectively.

We must also emphasize that the moral standards are not of man's making or determination, but are God's. Therefore they are not relative. There are those today who justify what God calls wrong, saying it is not immoral. They compare themselves with themselves and thus find comfort in saying that they are like others. Ethical standards (situational ethics) that justify an action depending on the situation are likewise contrary to God’s Word.

Purity Between Spouses - 1 Corinthians 7:1-40

The condition of the Christian home and of Christian relationships in marriage has great importance to assembly testimony. It is no wonder that many Christian homes are being ruined and that divorces are increasing even among believers when we realize that the evil one would attack something so precious to God and vital to assembly preservation. We need to carefully study this portion and understand the principles that should control in existing marriage relationships as well as to guide those who anticipate being married.

Without detailed examination of this chapter, one can say that it contains important final teaching regarding the integrity and lasting character of a marriage. While good brethren differ on the subject of divorce and remarriage, it seems clear that God never intends that there should be divorce. Even in marriages involving an unbeliever and a believer, that marriage relationship is to be preserved as far as possible by the believing partner. There are divorces taking place today that are granted on very trivial grounds, certainly not grounds that any portion of God's Word would countenance. The last teaching about remarriage after divorce is also found here (1 Corinthians 7:11, 39). We thank God for teaching regarding the solemnity and binding character of the marriage vows that has preserved Christian homes as a testimony for God in a godless world. May these important truths be preserved among us so that they might be effective for our preservation!

Those who anticipate marriage would do well to consider seriously the high principles that God's Word teaches. This chapter touches on all aspects of this truth, and if believers carried out these truths in their lives, it would help to preserve testimony for God in relation to the high dignity of assembly fellowship. It often happens that a breakdown in a marriage relationship has had a severely detrimental effect on the testimony of an assembly in a community. This must cause the enemy to rejoice even as it causes sorrow to the exercised saints.

Let us note that the assembly displays a high standard of righteous living among the saints. It is not a standard somewhat higher than the prevailing climate of world opinion, but a divine standard that is given by God. The assembly and individual believers have received grace from God to carry out that standard in practical living, and in that vein, will continue to be a testimony for God in a decadent and degenerate world.