One of the chapters in a book I was reading recently, The Meaning of Marriage by Keller, talked about singleness and marriage. One of the passages he mentioned briefly was 1 Corinthians 7; essentially Paul was calling the church not to be concerned with our spousal status, acknowledging the legitimacy of both marrying and staying single. He states that ‘the present form of this world is passing away.’ Keller then talks about widows in the church, and the need for the church to take care of widows so as to relieve them from the pressure to get married (marriage was often the only way a woman in those days could attain financial and social stability).
I couldn’t help but think about a study I did awhile back on 1 Tim 5, where Paul exhorts the church to take care of those who are truly widows. I was wondering, shouldn’t the church also then take care of younger widows so that they too may not desire to marry? But then Paul justifies this distinction by stating in v11-12 that ‘when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.’
This reminded me again of what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:10 ‘For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.’ In essence what Paul is saying is this: to those who are older and do not burn with passion, there is no need for you to marry to obtain financial or social security – the church is your family. To those who are young and single (widowed or otherwise), Paul says ‘it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.’
The role of the church here is this, to relieve widows in the church of any ungodly motivation for getting married. It’s more than just taking care of people who need our help, it’s about encouraging and building each other up that we may be more like Christ, whether in singleness or marriage. That’s the whole focus and foundation of the church, that we may encourage and build up one another in Christ.
That got me thinking, what do we do when we come to church? Are we looking primarily to build one another up in Christ? That may at times look like fun and games, but more often than not what that looks like is painful admonishment, difficult conversations, and hopeful edification. The church is the church of Christ and finds its foundation in His Word. And His Word is so clear as to what His church should look like:
1. Acts 2:42 ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’
2. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 ‘For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’
3. Ephesians 5:18-21 ‘And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.‘
Those are but a few mentions of what the church should look like, what the church should do.
What do we do when we come to church?