Leaving Your Garment Behind

Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the Corinthian congregation and is found in the New Testament. More specifically, the text and passage for today is found in verses fifteen through twenty-six of the seventh chapter. Within this particular passage of scripture the apostle Paul speaks to the Corinthian congregation concerning the contrasts between being married and being single. What’s quite interesting about this passage is how the apostle believed that both marriage as well as singleness were gifts given from the Lord Himself. The apostle recognized that there were those who were called to be saints of God yet who were also called to be single within the kingdom of God. I must pause for a moment and state that not everyone who is called to be a saint in the kingdom of God is also called to marry. There are men and women within the kingdom of haven who have been called to live a life of singleness and a life of celibacy before the Lord. Even the apostle himself recognized that while he was called to be an apostle of Christ unto the Gentiles, he was not called to marry a woman. I can’t help but be reminded of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah who was instructed by the Lord not to take unto himself a wife but to remain single in his service before and unto the Lord. Perhaps one of the greatest questions which must be answered is how many men and women can truly serve the Lord single and not take unto themselves a husband ow rife should that be the will of the Lord for them.

The more I read this particular chapter found within the New Testament epistle of First Corinthians, the more I can’t help but be gripped with the reality of how many men and women struggle with serving the Lord and remaining single. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women so desperately desire to give and be given in marriage that it completely alters their life. I am reminded of my own journey with the Lord and how there was a long period of time when I had a difficult time being single. I remember a number of times wanting so desperately to find a woman to marry. I remember a number of times when I had great difficulty remaining single because of the lust that was in my heart. If we are truly honest with ourselves we must admit that lust and desire are crucial factors within our singleness, and there are a number of times when we found it difficult to remain single because of the intense longing that was within our heart and soul. What’s more, is there were a number of times when my desire for marriage was about more than simply fulfilling the lustful desires that were within my heart, but a deep desire to love and to be loved. I remember so many times when I wanted to find that one person who may not have been perfect, but who was perfect for me. What about you? Do you remember your days of singleness? Do you remember those days before you were married—perhaps even before kids came along?

When I read this chapter found within this epistle of Paul I am gripped by the tremendous fact that it not only deals with singleness, but it also deals with marriage, as well as divorce. It’s actually quite interesting to read the words of the apostle Paul within this particular chapter, for if you begin reading with the opening verse you will find that his words and comments in this chapter are a direct response to that which they wrote unto him. In the first verse of this chapter we read the following words written by the apostle Paul concerning the text and context of this chapter—“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1). It is quite obvious and clear from reading the opening verse of this chapter the apostles words written and recorded within this letter were a direct response to that which the saints in Corinth wrote unto the apostle. It is quite clear and obvious that there were specific questions they had, which they inquired of the apostle Paul concerning. What makes this so interesting is that we don’t know, nor are we aware of that which this particular congregation wrote unto the apostle Paul. We have absolutely no record of that which they inquired of the apostle Paul, for we don’t have a copy of the text which was written unto the apostle. What we can, however, most likely be sure about is that they were curious and sought understanding concerning the relationship which could and should exist between a man and a woman.

The apostle Paul begins his response to the Corinthian congregation by stating that it is good for a man not to touch a woman, but the apostle didn’t stop with those words. As you continue reading the words of the apostle within this chapter you will find him go on to declare that in order to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. It is necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that this chapter undoubtedly has as its foundation the reality and concept of fornication. This is especially true considering the apostle’s addressing the fornication which existed within and among the congregation—namely, that a man among them was having his father’s wife. The apostle Paul would proceed to judge this man and his actions accordingly, and called for this man to be handed over to Satan in order that his flesh might be destroyed, but his spirit might be saved. Ultimately, the apostle Paul instructs the Corinthian congregation to put away from them that wicked person from their midst in order to purge the evil from among them. The apostle Paul rebuked and corrected this congregation—not only for not mourning over the fornication that was committed among them within their midst, but also that they did not put this deed away from them Within the fifth chapter of this epistle we come to understand that while there was undoubtedly the working of gifts within this congregation, there was also fornication present among them. What’s more, is that in addition to this fornication was a stubborn—perhaps even a blatant—refusal to mourn over the fornication, and even to put it out and away from them in their midst. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we read in the seventh chapter directly builds upon that which we read in the fifth chapter, for within this congregation there was an unholy mixture of gifts with fornication. In all reality, I can’t help but wonder whether or not the members of this congregation even knew or understood how to handle and deal with fornication among them in their midst.

If you continue reading this epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation you will find in the sixth chapter the apostle Paul going on to write about fornication and the tremendous need to flee from it. If you take a moment to consider both the fifth and sixth chapters of this epistle you will find that while in the fifth chapter the apostle Paul instructed the congregation to put away from them fornication, in the sixth chapter the apostle Paul instructed them to flee fornication. Essentially what we read within these two chapters are two sides of the same coin, for there are times when it is necessary for us to put away from us fornication, while there are other times when it is necessary for us to flee fornication. In all reality, I am convinced that the instruction to flee fornication is not merely limited to those who are married and those who are single, but also to those who are married. I am utterly and completely convinced that the temptation of fornication can find its way into any home and into any marriage, and can find its way into the life of that man or that woman who might be single. I believe that it is just as necessary for the single man or single woman to flee fornication as it is for the married man or woman to flee fornication. The one fundamental difference that exists between those who are married and those who are single is that when referencing those who are married you have to add the element of covenant before the Lord. When a man and woman take unto each other in marriage they enter into covenant with each other and with the Lord to love and cherish each other. This is why fornication in marriage is so deadly, so dangerous and so detrimental, for you are introducing fornication into the place of covenant and commitment. If I am being honest with myself and with you, I would dare say that one is not greater than the other in terms of fighting against and resisting the temptation of fornication within one’s life, for each and every man, woman, and child has great need to flee fornication. Much like Joseph who continually resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife until he eventually and ultimately had to flee from the advance itself, we are called to leave our cloaks behind in order that we might not allow ourselves to be caught up in fornication before the Lord of hosts.

LEAVING YOUR CLOAK BEHIND! As I consider the life of. Joseph, I can’t help but consider the tremendous importance of leaving his cloak behind in the hand of the woman who sought to make repeated advances toward him. On the one hand the cloak which he left behind could have been evidence that would support the claim of Potiphar’s wife concerning the advances Joseph would make upon her. The very fact that she had his garment and his cloak firmly within her grasp would only corroborate her detailed accusation of Joseph’s attempt to make repeated advances toward and against her. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that while Joseph’s cloak left in the hand of Potiphar’s wife could very well have served as evidence which would corroborate her false accusation against Joseph, it also stands as a powerful testimony and reminder of Joseph’s continued resistance of her advances. It’s absolutely incredible to consider how one garment and one cloak could mean two drastically different things in each of the parties which were involved. On the one hand the garment left behind was used to build a case against Joseph in order to falsely accuse him of sexual harassment, while on the other hand the garment which was left behind stood as a powerful testimony of Joseph’s continued commitment not to violate the trust and respect of his master. What’s more, is Joseph’s garment left behind at the scene of the advance stands as a testimony of Joseph’s refusal to commit such a transgression before and against his God whom he served faithfully—both within the land of his fathers, as well as within the land of Egypt. The question I can’t help but ask is whether or not we are willing to leave our garments behind in order that we might flee fornication. Joseph’s garment left behind in the hand of the wife of Potiphar was a powerful testimony of his continued willingness to resist the advances of her sexual indiscretions and misdeeds. (As a side note, I can’t help but wonder if Joseph was the only man whom Potiphar’s wife made sexual advances toward. Is it possible that she had been guilty of making advances to other servants and slaves, and that such men gave in to her requests and demands? Was this perhaps the first time that Potiphar’s wife was denied, resisted and rejected, and thus proved the old adage true “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”)

Within the final portion of the sixth chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that the body was not for fornication, but for the Lord, and that the Lord was for the body. The apostle Paul would then go on to describe that our bodies are the members of Christ, and proceeds to ask if we would dare take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot. Furthermore, the apostle goes on to declare that he which is joined to an harlot is one body, for the two shall become one flesh. The apostle Paul would go on instruct the Corinthian congregation to flee fornication, and would state that every sin which a man does is without the body, but that he which commits fornication sins against his own body. The apostle Paul would conclude that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which we have of God, and would go on to state that our bodies are not our own. In the final verse of this chapter we find the apostle Paul declaring unto the Corinthian congregation that we are bought with a price, and based on that simple truth, he then instructs us to glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which are both the Lord’s. It is absolutely remarkable to read the words of the apostle Paul concerning our being the temple of the Holy Ghost, for such language suggests the Holy Ghost dwells inside of us. This reality is confirmed and expressed in various other places within the New Testament, and is actually quite interesting, for it means that we are carriers of the Holy Ghost wherever we go. Do you not know that wherever you go you take the Holy Ghost with you, and whatever you do whether in your body or out of your body the Holy Ghost is an observer of such acts. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves when reading these words is what we make the Holy Spirit witness within our lives. If the Holy Ghost dwells within us, and if we are carriers of the Holy Spirit wherever we go, then that means that He is witness to anything and everything we do—regardless of whether it is good and pleasing in the sight of the Lord, or whether it is evil in the sight of the Lord.

The apostle Paul concludes the sixth chapter of this epistle speaking of fornication, and then proceeds to open the seventh chapter by stating that it is good for a man not to touch a woman. Undoubtedly the apostle Paul made such a bold statement because there were perhaps questions among the Corinthian congregation concerning lust and desire within their hearts and minds. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t men and women within this congregation who were struggling with fornication within their lives, and who sought the advice and counsel of the apostle Paul concerning such a struggle. Is it possible that there were men and women who were burning in their lust toward each other and who sought the advice of the apostle Paul on how to deal with such desires, lusts and passions? I can’t help but wonder if the apostle Paul received calls and pleas for help from such members of the congregation, and sought to include his response within this letter. In the second verse of this seventh chapter we find the apostle Paul declaring unto the Corinthian congregation that in order to avoid fornication, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. Now, on the surface it might seem and it might sound like the apostle Paul was suggesting that men and women marry simply to fulfill and gratify their own sexual desires, lusts, passions and appetites. In fact, it would be quite easy to read such words and consider this was exactly what the apostle Paul was doing within this chapter, yet I would dare state that I do not believe the apostle Paul was suggesting marriage just for the sake of having sex. The apostle Paul was keenly aware of the covenant that surrounded marriage, and firmly believed in the union between one man and one woman. What’s worth noting within this passage is the apostle speaking of a man having a wife and a woman having a husband, and not a man having a husband and a woman having a wife. Within the context of this chapter, the apostle Paul also confirms the union of marriage to be between one man and one woman, and not between two men or two women.

As this chapter progresses we find the apostle Paul going on to instruct husbands and wives to diligently work at meeting and fulfilling all the needs of desires of each other. The apostle Paul addressed the fact that it was not good for a husband to deprive and/or deny his wife, nor was it good for a wife to deny and/or deprive her husband. Only on occasion of periods of fasting and prayer was it lawful and permissible for a husband and wife to deprive each other, and even that only for a short period of time. It’s quite interesting to note that within this passage we find the apostle Paul declaring how he wished that all men and women were as he was—namely, single and serving the Lord among the Gentiles and churches. With that being said, however, the apostle Paul would go on to state that each and every man have their own proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. The apostle Paul believed that marriage was a place of covenant and commitment before the Lord where men and women fulfill and satisfy their desires and passions in the confines of union before the Lord in marriage. We dare not lose sight of or miss the significance of these words, for marriage is indeed that place where a husband can meet the needs of his wife, and a wife can meet the needs of her husband. In all reality, marriage is that place where a husband can meet and satisfy the needs and desires of his wife for the rest of their natural lives, and vice versa. Marriage was that realm and that arena where a man and a woman could unite and join themselves in covenant before the living God, and from that place of covenant and commitment could enjoy each other the way they were intended to. The question I have to present right here at this juncture is first unto you husbands—are you completely satisfied with and by your wives? Does your wife have the ability to meet, fulfill and satisfy all of your needs, desires and wants? Conversely, wives—are you completely satisfied with and by your husbands? Can you husband meet each and every one of your needs, desires, passions and wants?

The further you progress in this chapter you will find the apostle going on to speaking unto the unmarried and the widows, and stating of them how it was good for them to abide even as he was. With that being said, however, the apostle Paul would go on to write that if they cannot contain themselves, let them marry, for it is better for them to marry than to burn. Continuing on within this chapter we find the apostle Paul going on to write unto the married, and instructing the wife not to depart from her husband. If and should the wife depart from her husband, she was to remain unmarried, or else to be reconciled to her husband. What’s more, is the apostle goes on to write that the husband should not put away his wife, but should remain with his wife, for they entered into commitment and covenant before and with the Lord. It’s actually quite remarkable that when you go on to continue reading within this passage you find the apostle Paul writing that an unbelieving spouse was not a reason, nor was it a justification to put away the other individual. In fact, the apostle Paul urged and encouraged the believing husband to remain with his unbelieving wife, and the believing wife to remain with her unbelieving husband. In all reality, the apostle Paul leaves very little room or excuse or reason for divorce, and actually encourages husbands and wives to remain together. The question I am finding myself asking is how easy we make it to separate and divorce from that man or that woman we entered into covenant with before the Lord of hosts. We must recognize and understand that divorce was never sanctioned or authorized by the Lord, and that the Lord never intended for a man and a woman who entered into the covenant of marriage divorce from each other. Please note and understand that this is in no way to condemn those who perhaps have divorced from their spouse, or to pass judgment upon and against them. I would not dare to, nor would I presume to pass judgment on that man or woman who may have divorced their husband or wife, so please don’t think I am suggesting that.

As I am sitting here right now considering this passage of Scripture, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women enter into marriage with the sole intention and purpose of remaining with that man or that woman for the rest of their lives. What’s more, is I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us have entered into the covenant of marriage, and yet they seem to look for any and every way they can to get out of the marriage. There are men and women who treat marriage the way that it should be—a covenant relationship between a man and a woman which is not meant to be severed and broken. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women are truly committed to their marriage, and how many men and women can and will look for any reason to get out when the slightest obstacle, struggle, and trial comes their way. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women are willing to do anything and everything within their power to remain in their marriage—despite and regardless of how difficult things might become. What’s interesting about this particular passage of Scripture, is that the apostle Paul doesn’t speak to or address the concept and reality of abuse—whether it’s mental, emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. The apostle Paul doesn’t address infidelity or adultery in this particular chapter, which is actually quite interesting. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to commit ourselves to marriage—despite and regardless of the tests and trials which come our way. Here is a tremendous and powerful question which must be asked—how many marriages which ended in divorce could very well have been salvaged and even restored, yet ended in divorce. How many men and women chose to give up too easily on and within their marriages rather than continuing to remain and fight? How many of us truly have fight within us to remain in our marriage—despite and regardless of what may take place within it?

I am absolutely gripped and captivated by the words the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture—specifically, in verses twenty-one through twenty-four. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in this particular set of verses—“Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but it thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:21-24). I absolutely love how in the midst of all this talk and all this language of marriage, and singleness, the apostle Paul brings it all back to abiding with God, and remaining in the calling wherein one was called. THE LORD’S FREEMAN! CHRIST’S SERVANT! I absolutely love how the apostle Paul brings everything back to Christ and brings everything back to knowing and understanding our place within the kingdom of God, and understanding that which we have been called to. Those who are called in Christ and yet are servants are the Lord’s freeman, thus suggesting and implying that despite the fact that they are servants in the natural realm, they are free in the spiritual realm. Those who are called in Christ as free men in the natural realm are Christ’s servants in the spiritual realm. The question we must ask ourselves at the end of the day is whether or not we are willing to serve the Lord in whatever capacity we have been called to. Are we willing to serve Christ as a freeman? Are we willing to serve Christ as a servant? We must recognize and understand that for which and that to which we have been called, and we must pursue it with everything we have that is within us. Oh that we would spend our days fulfilling that for which the Lord has called us to in our lives, and that we would serve with everything we have within us.

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