3-3-5 God Makes Concessions
We need to recognize that God sets an ultimately high standard, but is
prepared to accept our achievement of a lower standard- i.e. God makes
concessions. We all disobey the same commandments of Christ day by day
and hour by hour. Yet we have a firm hope in salvation. Therefore obedience
to commandments is not the only necessity for salvation. " Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect"
(Mt. 5:48) goes unfulfilled by each of us- as far as our own obedience
is concerned. It is possible to disobey Christ's commandments every day
and be saved. If this statement is false, then salvation is only possible
is we attain God's moral perfection, which is impossible.
If disobedience to Christ's commands is tolerable by God (on account
of our faith in the atonement), how can we decide which of
those commandments we will tolerate being broken by our brethren, and
which of them we will disfellowship for? If we cannot recognize degrees
of sin, it is difficult to pronounce some commands to be more important
Throughout the Spirit's teaching concerning marriage in 1 Cor. 7, there
is constantly this feature of setting an ideal standard, but accepting
a lower one. This is demonstrated by the several occurrences of the word
" But..." in the passage:
- It is better not to marry: " But and if thou marry,
thou hast not sinned" (v.28).
- The same " but and if" occurs in vv. 10,11: " Let
not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart..."
. Separation is, therefore, tolerated by God as a concession to human
weakness, even though it is a way of life which inevitably involves
an ongoing breach of commandments.
- It is better for widows not to remarry; but if they do, this is acceptable
(1 Cor. 7:39,40; 1 Tim. 5:11)
- This same 'two standards' principle is seen elsewhere within 1 Cor.
Meat offered to idols was just ordinary meat, but Paul. like God, makes
concessions for those with a weak conscience concerning this (1 Cor.
- Likewise in 1 Cor. 9:12 Paul says he could have asked Corinth ecclesia
to support him financially, but he chose not to. Thus he chose the higher
of two options.
- Those who had the gift of tongues should only have used it to edify
others, speaking intelligible words publicly; but Paul was prepared
to allow the Corinthians to speak in tongues to themselves (1 Cor. 14:28),
although this seems to go against the tenor of his previous explanation
of the ideal use of that gift.
- 1 Cor. 12:31-13:12 implies that Paul was faced with the higher choice
of the ministry of love and the written word, compared to the lower
choice of exercising the Spirit gifts. By all means compare this with
the choice which he had in Phil. 1:21-26: to exit this life was made
possible to him, but he chose the higher, more difficult and more spiritually
risky option of living for a few more years, in order to strengthen
- We have given more examples of how God makes concessions
to weakness in Living On Different Levels. There are times
when the standards of God contradict each other, on a surface level.
Thus Boaz realized that a man must redeem the property
of a dead relative in some cases by marrying his wife; but this would
have resulted in polygamy (Ruth 4:5).
That there are Divine concessions to weakness, and that we should reflect
these in our dealings with each other, does not mean of course that ultimately
we never ‘draw the line’ as far as fellowship is concerned in our ecclesial
All this is not to say that God does not value principles, although God
makes concessions. The fact that God will tolerate a lower standard should
inspire us not to constantly depend upon it; rather should it make us
ambitious to attain that higher standard which is more pleasing to Him.
1 Cor. 7 shows that God will tolerate a less than ideal standard in marital
relations, which is the area of ecclesial life which usually provokes
the most bitter division. This also has Old Testament precedent. Abraham
was living under the standards of Eden, rather than those of the Mosaic
law. The Edenic standard was that of Christ concerning marriage.
Yet Abraham had relationships with Hagar,
Jacob had two wives- and God tolerated this departure from
the one man: one woman ideal.
It is irrelevant to reason that such 'inconsistencies' were tolerated
before the new covenant came into operation. God's moral principles did
not change the moment Christ died on the cross, and the new covenant came
into full operation. It is possible for us to see the changeover between
the two covenants as more dramatic than it was. They express the same
principles in different ways. God's greatest principle is His mercy, and
willingness to make concessions to human weakness, whilst still upholding
His righteousness. That remains constant in both covenants.