I was listening the album Redemption Songs by jars of clay this morning, I highly recommend if you have never been through it before.
Spotify: Redemption Song
But anyway the hymn I’ll Fly Away rolled into the currently playing spot. Now I have never been a big fan of this particular hymn, in fact I normally hit the skip button whenever this one begins assaulting my eardrums. But Jars of Clay does an exceptional and while playing this line caught my attention.
“When I die Hallelujah, by and by. I’ll fly away”
It occurred to me the song and particularly this part of the chorus is the writer rejoicing over the day he dies, he’s truly excited.
“When I die Hallelujah”
My initial feeling was this was kinda backwards, but I also thought I shouldn’t right? I mean Christ has conquered death, and death is the gateway by which we will be united with our bridegroom, so I should wholeheartedly rejoice that I will have a funeral one day. Fundamentally I suppose it comes from me failing to fully believe the gospel. We as Christians are not “supposed” to fear death, and while totally true, its hard at least for me personally not to view the day I die with apprehension. But thankfully Christ is merciful to this sinner and his attachment to this mortal coil. I do pray and hope that I can truly come to view death with the same joy that the writer of I’ll Fly Away does. When the day of my parlay with death arrives, I know with 100% certainty I can stand before a perfectly righteous and holy God and be justified, not because of me or how bravely I faced death. But because I believe in His son, who paid the ransom and conquered death. It’s His work, it’s the Gospel that lets me sing and truly believe “When I die Hallelujah, by and by. I’ll fly away.”
I have for quite some time been tying to write this post on 1st Corinthians 7, this particular chapter in Corinthians is in my opinion some of the hardest scripture to understand and make sense of, with parts of Revelation being the exception. I write this with less of an intent of exposition as perhaps a means of getting my thoughts down for the sake of coherency for my own benefit most of all. But the prompt behind this was here of late I have become aware of an idea or more exactly a statement that is drawn from this 7th chapter. I’m going to try to as faithfully as possible lay out the statement, but I have drawn it from several sources so I apologize of any fragmentation you may observe. But the subject statement’s overarching idea is that Paul in chapter 7 is qualifying being single as having particular and greater advantaged to marriage. Not just in the sense of it could be better, but that being single is in fact “best.” To go ahead and state where I stand on this right up front, I find this statement to be entirely inconsistent with this passage of scripture. I can’t find a legitimate way to make this statement congruent with this chapter. I’m gonna offer some counters to this position in two ways, the first being a right view of this passage in light of the context in which the chapter and more accurately the entire book itself is written. The second being the more general inconsistency that this statement exhibits when placed beside other parts of scripture regarding the topic of singleness and marriage. Ok gonna try and keep these both brief so fingers crossed.
Context. From my own study it has struck me how direct this seventh and the following chapters are, this is not just a general letter Paul wrote to encourage and strengthen the church at Corinth. He penned this letter in response to a letter written TO him from the Corinthians, and it’s particularly direct because we can see some of the open and unabashed sin that had invaded the church at this time. Paul does indeed suggest singleness, not looking at denying that at any means. But I would encourage you to consider the “why” behind the statement. Why would Paul suggest this? I see the context of this particular case, meaning the deep rooted sexual sin as well as the general context of being a Christian at this time, which entailed open and constant persecution, as being the driving force. So I would argue that in context Paul is not trying to qualify being single as better or higher than choosing marriage. Just at this particular point in time given the situation one might ought to consider not marrying, this is not in any way a general statement. It’s also worth noting how carful Paul is to make sure the Corinthians know he is not laying a “restraint” upon them regarding marriage. So in a terribly brief conclusion: contextually speaking, the aforementioned statement is actually this chapter simply taken out of context.
Ok part 2. I see the subject statement as being a radical redefinition of the order and view of marriage laid out in scripture. Setting aside the fact that scripture uses marriage as the means to convey the image of the greatest hope of the Christian life, I see the scriptures as having a very high view of marriage. The only scripture I’m gonna throw at you for conciseness sake is Genesis 2:18: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone…”(Also using it because it is so direct) This is the very first malediction God ever pronounced over his creation, he saw man was single and did not praise it, but instead provided a fit partner. There are other scriptures regarding marriage and singleness but I think this accurately conveys my point. To say singleness is best is wholly inconsistent with the view of what it means to be married AND what it means to be single.
Anyways I want to be crystal clear that I write this only because I was us to think correctly about what the scriptures say about marriage and singleness. I think that the level of regard in which scripture holds marriage should point us towards taking very seriously our duty of understanding it rightly. I feel that qualifying singleness as best is a misrepresentation of the intent behind Paul’s words. And to push this ideal as the standard for relationships I feel is a tragedy. Before I close however I do want to say that this is not in any way pushing away or dealing with celibacy, if you feel you have been called to it then I encourage you to pursue it in faith. I don’t want my words to be misconstrued in this regard, would not want to be taken out of context 🙂
Here are some links that might be helpful:
Probably as many people who know me come to find out I have an addiction to the $5 friday sales that Ligonier Ministries puts on. A while back while getting my friday fix I acquired a DVD on which was recorded the Linonier 2001 Holiness conference. The first up in their lineup was a segment preached by R.C. Sproul, and without re-preaching the sermon Sproul basically examined the Munus Triplex or the three offices that Christ held while he was about his earthly ministry. What caught my attention was the discussion of the husband and father as high priest to his family, Sproul noted that the husband has only himself to offer as a sacrifice to his family. While I was incredibly encouraged and inspired by the principle I was sort of at a loss to explain this in practical terms. After a couple days of thought, I guess the consensus I have reached in my mind is this, offering myself to my family is a transplanting my own wants and desires with the wants and desires of my wife and family. To use an OT perspective, I (more on the use of “I” here later) must cut out what I want place it on an altar and burn it, replacing it with a heart that prioritizes my wife and family above myself. To faithfully attempt to emulate the example of servant I am also called to follow in my marriage I feel like this is crucial. Christ provided not only an implicit but also a explicit example of this in that He supplanted His own will with the will of the Father. (While I realize the two I am comparing are not completely analogous I feel the principle still holds true.) And in choosing to use the word “I” earlier when describing the action I fully realize without Christ providing the strength to make that sacrifice daily, I will fail every time. So to close things out, this cutting out and burning in sacrifice is something I must be driven to by Christ daily, I can tell ya though, it ain’t gonna be easy to cut this selfish idolatrous heart out every day, but its gotta happen. So anywho, this was def my first blog post ever, hope it made sense, because it didn’t always to me. Good thing is either way, tomorrow is Friday, almost time for another fix!