Reading through the Bible together
The Apostle speaks about the principles of marriage. Sexuality should be kept within the confines of a loving marriage relationship (vs. 2-5). Marriage vows are sacred and should be regarded as sacred. Divorce should be avoided, even if one partner is an unbeliever. “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (vs. 16).
As the Christian message spread into new territories, the issue of circumcision repeatedly came up. For Jewish Christians the rite of circumcision was a vital part of their identity, but as Christianity spread into these new regions, this radically transformed the importance of circumcision for all believers. It was seen as not being important for non-Jews, leading to the first major crisis in the church. Most conservative scholars believe that this particular epistle would have been written by Paul after the church council in Acts 15, which debated this issue at length. It was an important debate for the early church. These early Christians were far from perfect, which necessitated counsel from church leaders on various issues that would keep the church together, so it not be divided into separate groups.
Paul affirms that “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (vs. 19). In the midst of this crisis the Apostle urges them to remember their “calling” (vs. 20), and that this freedom was made possible through the Lord Jesus Christ. “You were bought at a price” (vs. 23). When a church conflict erupts, the solution is to remember our mission. If not, this means we have taken our eyes off of Jesus. After all, isn’t it Jesus who gave us the reason for mission?
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies