The Latin abūtor means either (1) ‘use badly,’ ‘misuse,’ or (2) ‘use to the full.’ In this second sense Cicero uses the word of spending one’s whole leisure time with a friend (see Lewis and Short, Latin Dict., s.v. ‘Abūtor’),
The Greek verb καταχράομαι had both these meanings. Thus in Plato (Menex. 247 A) it means ‘use wrongly’; and Clem. Alex. Pœd. i. (p. 142, Potter) speaks of ‘using fully every device of wisdom.’ In older English the verb had both meanings. Cranmer’s Bible has ‘abuse’ = ‘use to the full’ in Col 2:22. In both 1 Co 7:31 and 9:18 καταχράομαι means ‘use to the full.’ The RV translates it so in 9:18 and marginally so in 7:31.
(a) 1 Co 7:31.—The connexions (e.g. marriage), circumstances (e.g. sorrow and joy), and concerns (e.g. business and wealth) of life have in Christianity an emotional interest. Stoicism would expel these emotions and leave the soul empty. Christianity determines them eschatologically (cf. 1 Co 7:29a, 31b). To avoid abuse of the world is to use it sub specie finis. Abuse here borders on our meaning of misuse (cf. French abuser—on abuse celui qui se laisse captiver; and Mark pattison’s note on Pope’s Essay on Man, ii. 14); and that perhaps is why RV retains ‘abuse.’ Tests like this apply in their original freshness and strength to times of crisis (cf. Luther’s hymn, ‘Gut, Ehre, Kind, und Weib … lass fahren dahin’), when the dissolution of society seems imminent, but in essence they are applicable to all time, as human life is always uncertain. They do not, however, encourage aloofness from or slackness in social duties (cf. St. Paul’s attitude to wards the non-workers in Thessalonica, 2 Th 3:10ff.).
(b) 1 Co 9:18.—One phase of St. Paul’s accommodating conduct (συγκατάβασις) for the gospel’s sake was the voluntary abridgment of his rights of maintenance by the Corinthians (1 Co 9:7–14, 2 Co 11:8). This accommodation must be distinguished from men-pleasing (cf. Gal 1:10). As the height of right may be the height of injury (summum ius summa iniuria), so conversely the abnegation of Christian rights for the gospel’s sake enhances the power of both Evangelist and Evangel (cf. Mk 10:29b).
Summary.—A lawful use of the world (1 Co 7:31) or even of Christian rights (9:18) becomes harmful when dissociated from eternal issues, or pursued without regard to others. The lower planes of life gain significance in subordination to the highest. Rights legally due may, if pressed without regard to love, become injurious.
(c) In 1 Co 6:9 and 1 Ti 1:10 ἀρσενοκοῖται is translated ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ (cf. Ro 1:27 written from Corinth). This unnatural vice is that known in Greek literature as παιδεραστία. In St. Paul’s view sins of uncleanness were the inevitable Divine penalty of forgetfulness of God—a view strengthened by the association between uncleanness and the worship of Aphrodite in places like Corinth.
Literature—Grimm-Thayer, s.v. καταχράσμαι, HDB, vol. i. art. ‘Abuse’; the Comm. on above passages, e.g. Edwards in EGT and Hand-Com.; cf. also C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of Life and Godliness, London, 1870, Sermon xix.; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, vol. iii. sermon xiv.; W. G. Blaikie, Present Day Tracts, no. 4, ‘Christianity and the Life that now is.’ On παιδεραστία consult W. A. Becker, Charikles, 8 vols., Berlin, 1877–78, vol. ii. p. 252 ff.
RV Revised Version.
Grimm-Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, tr. Thayer.
HDB Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible (5 vols.).