My pastor is currently doing an expository series on 1 Corinthians, and this week he was discussing chapter 5. I would have no real differences of opinion with what he said today (April 29) but I think he missed something, something important, which most Christians miss.
As you read the following, ask yourself; “Is there some scenario today where most modern Christian Churches would actually agree with the Corinthian Church?” The answer will shock you:
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2
As I have noted time and again, we are not reading Scripture in a vacuum. We are told, over and over again, to compare Scripture with Scripture, spiritual with spiritual, but most of us, including our pastors, do not.
Is there some other place in Scripture where a similar event occurred, where we might derive some meaning from the situation? The answer is, of course, yes! The exact same situation occurred during the life of the patriarch Jacob, and his oldest son Reuben.
And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: Genesis 35:22
Now, not a lot of detail is given in the passage. Only the facts are presented to us, but I think Reuben’s thinking is rather clear, and common in the Church today. Bilhah was his father’s concubine, and “not a real wife”, so it didn’t matter if he slept with her or not.
This kind of thinking permeates much of professing Christianity today, to the point that many missionaries, once they have led a polygamist to the Lord, tell him to leave all but the first wife! I have heard both fundamentalist missionaries, and many evangelicals make this same statement!
What mindset is it that leads a missionary to make this kind of statement? The same kind of mindset that led Reuben to sleep with his father’s concubine. The idea that “only the first wife is a legitimate wife”. This idea does not have its foundation in Scripture, but from somewhere else!
What is a concubine? A concubine is defined as; “A wife of lower status”. In other words she’s still a wife! Jacob understood this, and as a result of this sin Reuben lost his birthright!
3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. Genesis 49:3-4
Centuries later Israel still remembered Reuben’s sin, and his descendants lost their birthright forever because of it! Yes indeed, a concubine is a wife, and deserves the same respect as any other wife.
Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. I Chronicles 5:1
So how is it possible that modern Churches could approve of the same sin as was mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1? Is the situation the same as that of Reuben and Jacob? Is it possible that the man’s father was a pagan, who had several wives? I think this is what the story is telling us. The man did not have his mother, but a second or third wife, and probably a woman who was several years younger than her husband, her boyfriend’s father.
The young man, and the woman he was cohabiting with, were both professing Christians, while she had been a concubine to his father. Many Christians today would side with this couple because we don’t like the idea of an older man marrying a woman, young enough to be his daughter. Many would also side with the Corinthian Church because the father was not a Christian, while the couple in question professed Christianity.
So we can see why Christians today would side with the adulterous couple. “What right did that old pagan have, to have so many wives?” “Shouldn’t a Christian woman be married to a Christian man? Why then can’t she leave the pagan husband and marry a believer?”
What did Paul say about Christians who find themselves married to unbelievers?
And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. I Corinthians 7:13 (Hmm, just a couple of pages later)
Yes, this passage does apply to women who find themselves in a polygamous situation. God doesn’t give us any wiggle room in this instance. This Christian couple, by shacking-up, brought great shame upon Jesus Christ and His Church! Just as in the case of Jacob and Reuben, this young man humiliated his father. It would have been better for her to be a Christian witness in a polygamous family, than to shack-up with her step-son!
This couple is not alone, for many Christians bring shame upon Jesus Christ today, for the exact same reasons! The above mentioned missionaries are giving many people a reason to avoid Christianity! When a man has made vows to his wife he has no reason to escape his responsibilities, even if she’s his fourth! When they send away the second, through fourth wife, what is going to happen to her?
In many cultures, the woman who is sent away from her husband will be beaten by her father, or brother, and then sold to another man! Far better for her to remain with a man who has recently received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour! Such missionaries are so hard-hearted, I have a hard time believing they know the Lord of the Bible! They are just a bunch of Pharisees, turning their proselytes into children of hell like themselves! If they are true believers they need to repent of this teaching, and do so now!
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. Exodus 22:16
Once you have sexual relations with a woman, who is not already engaged or married, you are to marry her, even if you are already married!
If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. Exodus 21:10
Taking away her food, clothing and duty of marriage, is divorce! (In the bible divorce is also called “putting away”) Jesus agrees with Moses;
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Matthew 19:9
A polygamist is actually obeying Jesus’ and Moses’, teaching while a man who divorces before remarrying is actually disobeying both Jesus and Moses! A polygamist does not “put away” his wife before marrying another! It is no wonder that western society, while accepting gay marriage, hates polygamy with a passion!
While Christians are not under the Law, the study of the Law does inform us of God’s mind on these various issues. God didn’t put it there for us to ignore!