The time is short?
…the appointed time has grown short…
1 Corinthians 7:29 (NRSV)
The apostle Paul had a very distinguished education. His formative years were spent in Tarsus and he was later sent to Jerusalem to study under the doctor of Jewish law, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He knew his Greek history and mythology (Acts 17:22-23), and was well-versed in the rules of grammar, rhetoric and public debating.
Corinth was a very cosmopolitan city, composed of Greeks, Romans, Jews and other nationalities. The church there reflected this and as a result there were serious theological and behavioural disputes and practices. As the founder of this church Paul had the responsibility of calming and correcting these problems; the fact that there were so many, accounts for the length of his letters to the Corinthians.
The Jews of that time thought that the Roman oppression and frequent earthquakes indicated that the ‘time of the end’ was approaching, and the Messiah would soon come. Some even tried to work out the date of His coming using texts from the scriptures and pagan literature. For many this led to extremely unbalanced social behaviour.
Did Paul agree it was ‘the time of the end’? On the surface it would seem so. In 1Cor 7:31 he wrote, ‘For the present form of this world is passing away.’ These were very early days in the history of the church and at that time many Christians believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime. Even so Paul wanted to emphasise faith, persistence and love, ‘Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.’ (I Cor 16:13-14)
Throughout the centuries there have been Christians who have interpreted events in the world to claim that the end times are approaching. Jesus Himself warned us of this: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Matthew 24:7-8). However Jesus also cautioned his followers to avoid speculation about when the ‘end times’ will come, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36).
It’s not hard to see 2020 as one the most horrific years we have experienced in recent times, and we hope and pray that 2021 will be better. Maybe so, but our attention should be focused on the things that really matter: faith, persistence, and love.
Lord, show me how I can show your love in the world into which You have placed me. In Jesus Christ’s name. Amen
Study by Christopher Reeve
About the writer:
Christopher Reeve is an Elder and Assistant Pastor of the Invicta Fellowship, Blean (Canterbury), a congregation of Grace Communion International.
Blean Village Hall
Local congregational contact:
Word of Life contact: