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1 Corinthians 7

August 19th, 2012 by Vic

1 Corinthians 7

“Singleness and Marriage”

August 19, 2012


Archaeological evidence indicates that there were food shortages in Corinth during the time when Paul was writing this letter.  Documents talk about panic buying and riots because of social unrest and uncertainty about the future.  The historian Tacitus also writes about several earthquakes and famines.  Many pagans believed that these were divine omens.  The Christians believed these were signs of the return of Jesus Christ.


What are you hearing today about drought, food shortages and hunger games?  Do we blame the weather on the goddess ‘el Niña’ or do we see the hand of our Creator?


Some well-meaning Christians were saying that because of the signs of the times we should not marry.  The world was saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die.”


Paul does not write a treatise on the signs of the times, but answers a couple questions about marriage with some practical advice.  Because of these troubled times, should Christians get married?  Is a single life wrong as the Jews teach?  Should Christians get a divorce if their spouse is not a Christian?  Paul gives us some principles to answer our questions.

7:1-4 Paul begins with a popular statement of those practicing celibacy, “It is good not to touch a woman” but he ends this letter by commanding them (1 Cor 16:20) to greet one another with a holy kiss.  There is a difference between a handshake and holding hands.  There are also different reasons to kiss.  In the first part of this chapter Paul is talking to singles.  He says, be careful in your relationships.  If you marry, your marriage must be monogamous between man and woman.  Having multiple partners is immoral.  There is no such thing as a same sex marriage.  All sex outside of marriage is immoral (fornication) and God is not pleased.


Satan is using our culture to ruin marriages.  God created marriage as a beautiful relationship.  Paul compares the marriage relationship to the relationship between Christ and His Church (Eph 5).  It is a powerful relationship of mutual love and trust.  It is a partnership working together to build one another.  There is equality.  There is shared responsibility.  Each belongs to the other.  There is no separate ownership.  In all of ancient literature there has been no other writing found which teaches that the husband surrenders his body exclusively to his wife in marriage.


Heretics in the church apparently were forbidding new Christians to get married.  The Jews believed that marriage was a duty and it was a sin before God not to be married by 20 years of age.  Some Greek philosophers thought marriage was evil, but a necessary evil.  They felt celibacy was the ideal state of man.  Paul says consider all the facts in your situation with the gifts you have been given.


7:5-6 Marriage brings responsibility.  It limits your freedom.  You can’t just do your own thing and promote your own spirituality.  Marriage means your whole person belongs to the other.  If either or both of you lack self-control and the power to resist sexual temptation, stop depriving one another no matter how good your intension is to fast and pray.  Temptation will distract you.  Your prayers will be hindered.  Your intensions to draw closer to God will be hindered.


This is just a practical matter.  Use your head.  Remember how God created you.  Think about where God has placed you.  You have strengths and weaknesses.  Should you get married?


7:7-9 Is it better not to be married?  Paul testifies that he is a widower at this time.  We don’t know if his wife died or if she left him when he became a Christian.  Marriage was required to be a member of the Sanhedrin.  The Rabbis said that a Jew who has no wife is not a man.  God commanded man to be fruitful and multiply.  Now Paul says each man has his own gift.  It is OK to be celibate.  It is good for them to remain single.  It is not better or worse.  It is OK.  It is also OK to be married.  Just be ready for the Lord’s soon return.


If you don’t have self-control, then marry.  The word for self-control is used of athletes abstaining from sensual pleasures when preparing for the games.  I heard that one athlete was sent home in these last Olympic games because he spent one night with his wife.  Athletes are expected to discipline themselves.  Christians are expected to discipline themselves before and after marriage.


7:10-16 God created marriage for one man and one woman.  Sex is a beautiful experience within the boundary of marriage.  The two become one flesh.  We become one in body, soul and spirit.  Divorce is not like taking apart Lego toys.  It is tearing or ripping apart of flesh, soul and spirit.  Divorce causes bloodshed and pain.  Divorce was not God’s idea.  God hates divorce.


If the wife becomes a believer and the husband is not, she should not leave her husband (10).  If the husband becomes a believer and the wife is not, he should not leave his wife (11).  But divorce does happen.  God still forgives a repentant heart and makes all things new.


To those with mixed marriages be content to live together (12-13).  Jesus did not speak about this issue.  Marriage is still a sacred bond.  There are two sides to this problem with different opinions in the church.  Some Christians were saying there can be no fellowship between saint and sinner.  Christians were learning that husbands and wives were equal and the wives must be honored as precious vessels.  The culture said that the man could do what he wanted to do.  Being a Christian was dangerous in the Roman world.  There was the continual pressure to say, “Caesar is Lord.”  The temple priests could come to your door any time.  I think Christianity today is getting more and more dangerous in a culture more and more like the Romans.


Paul says the believing husband is sanctified by being faithful to his covenant with his wife.  He will be a blessing to his unbelieving wife.  (Maybe like holy vessels and utensils in the Temple.)  His children will also be blessed by his faithfulness (14).  Christianity overcomes evil with good.  Christianity is infectious.  But if the unbeliever chooses divorce, the believer is free.  There is no problem with a mixed marriage unless the unbeliever makes it a problem.  Marriage was not created to make us slaves but to give us freedom in the sphere of peace (15).  There should be no slavery or reckless abuse of freedom in marriage.


If the woman wished to leave because her husband was a Christian then the husband was to let her go and not withhold her dowry.  God has called His people to live in peace and not perpetual dissension.


Another possible benefit for being patient regarding divorce is that your spouse may change his/her mind (16).  Your family’s relationship with God is your responsibility.  Be faithful and Christlike.  Give the Holy Spirit time to speak to the heart of your spouse.  When there is repentance, God can bring good out of any relationship.


7:17-24 Several relationships do not change when you become a Christian.  God was trying to direct your life before you became a Christian.  He wants you to be a Christian where you are.  If you were a Jew, be a Christian Jew.  If you were a Gentile, be a Christian Gentile.  If you were married, single, slave, or free, be Christian.  All stand equal before God.  Be content and be holy where you are.  Jesus may call you to give all you have to the poor and come follow Him, but right now be content.  Serve where God has placed you.


If you are a slave, consider yourself free in Christ.  If you are free, consider yourself a servant of Christ (22).  You were bought with the precious blood of Jesus.  Stop being a slave of men’s expectations.  Some things won’t change when you become a Christian.


7:25-35 Jesus did not give us any commands regarding Christian singles.  You’ll have to consider your situation and the signs of the times then judge for yourselves.  Paul says that his opinion is worth considering for at least 5 reasons: he knows the mercy of God (25), the present political threat on Christians (26), Christ will return soon (29), this world is coming to an end (31), and maintaining a marriage takes time and effort (33).  Though the world is in a mess, Paul does not want these singles to be anxious or stressed out (32).  Take time to think about it.


The word for ‘shortened’ in 29 is used in classical Greek of furling sails, packing luggage, reducing expenses or winding up.  Paul is warning the singles they should be getting ready for Christ’s return.


The word for ‘snare’ or ‘restraint’ in 35 is used for a ‘noose’ or ‘slip-knot’.  Paul is not trying to snare them or make them slaves of his expectations.  He wants them to be self-controlled so they can enjoy their freedom in Christ.


Paul admonishes contentment.  One of the hardest attitudes to maintain in our consumer culture is contentment.  Paul tells the married not to seek divorce and tells the singles not to seek marriage (27).  Is he thinking about Adam?  Adam had named all the animals.  Had he figured out male and female?  What was Adam doing when God brought him a wife?  Sleeping.  He was not looking for a compatible animal.  Do not be seeking on your own.  It is especially dangerous today.  How is God going to find you a spouse?  I don’t know but because of the impending national crisis, Paul commanded them not to seek a change of status.  I do know that God created our bodies with its desires and passions.  When we become a Christian the Holy Spirit purifies our heart and passions.  The Christian is never told to eliminate or ignore his natural passions.  Rather we are to use them to the glory of God.  Christianity does not abolish normal living, but enhances it to the glory of God.  Jesus said He came to give life and give it abundantly.


Christian marriage complicates life.  God’s plan is that mankind will honor Him and give thanks.  The single person is to focus on pleasing the Lord and not himself.  The married man is to please the Lord and his wife but not himself.  The married woman is to please the Lord and her husband but not herself.  Obviously pleasing self is not part of God’s plan for us.  The world says, “If it feels good, do it.”  The Bible says, “If it pleases the Lord, do it.”


7:36-38 What are Christian fathers to do about their daughters in pre-arranged marriages?  The father had authority to arrange his daughter’s wedding.  Paul says if your daughter wants to marry, let her (36).  If she doesn’t that is OK too.  You have to consider all the available facts in your situation and do what pleases the Lord.


7:39-40 Can a Christian wife remarry after her husband dies?  Paul says that is OK only “in the Lord”.  A Christian should marry a Christian.  Paul goes on to say, “in my opinion I think it would be better if she remained single.”  In other words judge for yourselves.  In several different ways Paul has been telling them to use their heads.  Then in the next chapter he goes on to say that some things are not solved by knowledge, but by love (8:1-2).


To marry or not to marry–that is the question.  But Jesus did not give us any instructions.  What do we do when we don’t have any instructions?  We may have to think?!  What has God already said through the life of Jesus that gives guidance for finding answers in our situation?  This kind of situation is not the time to pool our culturally biased ignorance, but to seek the heart of God.  What is in harmony with His will and ways for this time?  Paul has given us some facts in his situation and some principles for our situation.


“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”



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