Paul’s Present Distress

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” I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.” 1 Corinthians 7:26.

Paul’s “present distress” has been used to discount this section of his letter to the Corinthians. Some think that since there a calamity of some type being inflected on the people – whether famine, disease, earthquake, etc. – that Paul was writing for people who were undergoing circumstances that we can’t relate to. This distress is often interpreted to be no more than a disclaimer that reads, “This is all my opinion. So don’t take anything too serious.” But how should we take it? I don’t think we should take one inch off of it that we don’t give the rest of the Bible. All of Paul’s words are the inspired word of God. Yes, we are living in a time when the Bible strikes a sharp contrast to surrounding culture. And I’m sure many people who are reading it for the first time are looking for “outs” and disclaimers and reasons why it doesn’t apply to their lives. But this is not one of them. Paul could have considered the present distress to be the period of time he was living in and waiting for the second advent of Christ. We are in the same distress, living in a time between ages. The distress is spreading the good news around the world and making as many children of God as possible, with the knowledge of what happens to people who perish without accepting Christ. Do you think Paul’s distress could have been any worse that Christians are experiencing in 21st century America? Paul spent time in prison for expressing his religious beliefs. People in America have too, like Kim Davis. Christians are being targeted and executed all over the world by terrorists and other extremists. The gunman in a recent shooting at a campus in Oregon shot only those students who said they were Christians. If we exhumed Paul from the grave and took him on a guided tour through our big cities and halls of government, what would be his assessment? Would he think it was a walk in the park? I tend to think he would consider our circumstances quite a distress.

Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament. By our standards today, he was beyond a genius. God could have chosen anyone to write the epistles. He could have created anyone to play the role of Paul. He did. He made Paul. He could have transported Shakespeare back in time. He didn’t. Paul was a humble man who didn’t want to appear superior or authoritative. He was not writing his letters on an iPad from the comfort of a beach side condo. He was in prison. I don’t think we should use his humility as an excuse to bypass sections of the Bible that do not fit our times or make us uncomfortable. We should use it as a reason to take him more seriously.

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