Love Done Right- 1 Corinthians 7 (Sn1:Ep16)

Peace to Live By: Love Done Right- 1 Corinthians 7 (Sn1:Ep16) - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I hope everyone is doing well today.

       We are going do something a little different today. Instead of focusing on a particular topic, I want us to look at the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians as a whole. Today’s style will be more expository instead of the typical topical style. Now, undoubtedly, this chapter does talk about singleness and marriage primarily, but I want to go through the chapter and consider the different aspects of it.

       Really, I think you can break this chapter down into ten different sections. These sections are as follows:

       -Verses 1-2 talk about the fact that people should marry.
       -Verses 3-5 discuss the Christian marriage relationship.
       -Verses 6-9 are the Apostle Paul’s divine advice to singles.
       -Verses 10-11 discuss that Christians should not divorce.
       -Verses 12-16 are about the situation of believers married to unbelievers.
       -Verses 17-24 is Paul’s great emphasis on Christians living as called.
       -Verses 25-28 talk about the fact that marriage is good for Christians.
       -Verses 29-35 is about the advantage of singleness verses marriage.
       -Verses 36-38 discuss that the Christian can marry if desired.
       -And Verses 39-40 talk about the commitment of marriage until death.

       Now, it would be great if we had time to read the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 7 before we started here. However, we do not have the time today to read it first before we start. So, I will read it in sections. But keep in mind that reading the chapter as a whole, without breaks, is also important to do so you can get a ‘big picture’ perspective. I would therefore encourage you to read it as a whole when you have the opportunity.

       I would also like to state that what is said in the chapter comes from God. That is, these sayings about singleness, marriage, and divorce are not simply the opinions of a long-ago Jewish man converted to Christianity named Paul. Rather, these sayings are the Word of God. God says in 1 Timothy 3:16 the following: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). So, even though God used a man—the Apostle Paul—to write it, these are the very Words of God. God used men to write all the pages of the Bible, even in the Old Testament.

       First, let us consider verses 1 and 2 of 1 Corinthians 7. These verses state:

“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”

Understand that the society and culture of the Corinthians in the first century A.D. was very much like our society and culture here in the United States. Promiscuity was very common, and there were all kinds of relationships people found themselves in, whether they were monogamous or a form of sexual perversion of some sort. So, while singleness is good, it is also good for Christians to get married. This is because in our society and culture, there are many temptations to fall into sexual sin. One of the benefits to marriage is that it provides a person with the ability to practice a sexual relationship in a way that God thinks is good.

       So, what does this Christian marriage relationship then look like? Well, the Apostle Paul says the following in verses 3 through 5:

“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (ESV)

Many of you have probably heard the idea in some Christian circles, or Christian history, that the sexual relationship between the husband and wife are only for procreation, that in fact this relationship is something that has to be done for that purpose, but should be avoided otherwise. But, God makes it clear here that this idea is not true. In fact, God commands that the husband and wife “not deprive one another.” You see, when you’re married, your body no longer is just yours, but the two people have become one-flesh. So, your spouse has right to your body. The only time sexual relations should be suspended is when it is agreed upon for fasting, or prayer, or some God-centered reason. But then both partners are to resume the normal relationship because if they don’t, who knows what stunt Satan will try to pull.

       Now, Paul shifts his focus from married people, and talks about singles. Let’s see what he says here, starting in verse 6:

“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (6-9, ESV)

Paul notes here that some Christians do indeed have the gift of singleness. What that means is that God has given this person, after becoming a Christian, the ability to live life successfully being single without the ability for major temptation in regard to sexual sin. Unfortunately, here in American society, as it was in Paul’s day, there are great temptations all around us. For many of us, we are not going to have the gift of singleness. God has not enabled us to live our whole lives without a partner. Some of us are still waiting, but God will provide people with a partner if he wants them to marry.

       So, here we shift gears back to married people. The following is stated in verses 10 and 11:

“To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” (ESV)

Therefore, we learn here that neither the husband nor the wife is the leave the other, to divorce. Now, perhaps the two will get divorced or separate, but if they do, they are not allowed to remarry to another person. Don’t misunderstand here, the two are not supposed to divorce (unless based on sexual immorality). Divorcing is wrong unless based on this reason. So, the two are to remarry to each other when possible. Now, separation may be necessary for a time in the case of say, an abusive partner, but hopefully the person will repent. If not, there is good reason to doubt that the person is even a Christian.

       Now talking about married people, the Apostle Paul this moves to Christians who are married to unbelievers. He states the following in verses 12 through 16:

“To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (ESV)

Now, the situation here is of two people who are married, and one became a Christian while the other remains an unbeliever. This is not condoning Christians marrying non-Christians.

       In a marriage situation in which one of the partner has become a believer, hopefully the other partner will want to stay. For one, this is more peaceful. For two, the other person might become saved by being around the saved partner. Now, when Paul talks about the unbelieving spouse being made holy by the believing partner, he is not saying that person becomes a Christian automatically, or is even counted as a Christian, for the text calls the person “an unbeliever.” It is true that a household in which there is a believer will certainly bring blessings on the others in the house who are not believers. All members of a household can benefit from the believer's spiritual and material blessings, since God is with him or her. That is how they are made “holy.”

       So, with the two people married in this text, one becomes a Christian, but the other remains an unbeliever. If the unbeliever decides he or she doesn't like his or her spouse being a believer, that person may decide to leave the marriage, to divorce. Paul makes it clear that the Christian is not to fight back, not to try and stop the unbeliever from leaving, for he said, “let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” So, the Christian is not spiritually bound to the other person for the rest of their lives, so remarrying is possible and allowed. God allows the Christian in this situation to remarry after the divorce.

       Now, let's look at the next set of verses in which the Apostle Paul emphasizes that people should live as they were in God called them. Starting in verse 17:

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers and sisters, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” (17-24, ESV)

So, we see here from these verses that the primary point here that Paul is trying to make is that a Christian should be satisfied living in the conditions that God has called him or her. On the personal level, for a man circumcision or uncircumcision didn't matter anymore, like it did in the Old Testament. What really matters for a believer is that he is “keeping the commandments of God.” Now, anyone who was a slave was not to run away from his or her master, but was obviously encouraged to take hold of freedom when there was an opportunity for it. With God, the 'earthly' social status of a person doesn't dictate how much God cares for a person. God sees enslaved people on the same spiritual level as he does those who are not in bondage. God purchased every believer, no matter what earthly condition he or she is in, with the blood of his Son, Jesus. Therefore, all believers belong to him.

       Moving back to his primary focus of marriage, Paul talks about engaged people. He states the following in verses 25 through 28:

“Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.” (ESV)

Here, Paul reemphasizes what he had just been talking about in verses 17 through 24 in which a person is to live life as called. Due to external social factors, like Christian persecution, sometimes it is best for people to live as they are when God saved them. Paul points out that divorce is not to be sought for, and marriage is not be sought after. In societies where there is great persecution, for instance, a Christian who is married to another Christian will have his or her worries multiplied, as the person will not only be worried about him or herself, but will also be concerned about the safety of the partner. In this instance, singleness is better. But that is not the only reason singleness can be better. For one, there is much more freedom for the single person. There is no one he or she has to care for.

       However, Paul does point out that marrying is not wrong, for God never prohibits marriage. As we've already discussed, marriage is good and beneficial for people on many grounds. But, it should not be the focus of a person's life to be trying to find a mate. God called us, as Christians, to love him, love others, and live doing what he says is right. Undoubtedly, God will provide for Christians in all situations where there is need, and will do so even for marriage—if he wants a person to be married. There are no worries, here. Just live life as you were called, and God will enable the rest to happen.

       Paul also talked about the fact that married people will have more “worldly troubles” than those who are single. It is true that while there are many benefits to marriage, it will also make life harder. As a married person, your responsibility is not only for yourself, but also to your spouse. And, if you have a child or children, your responsibility lies there too. (But your responsibility is always first to your spouse, not to your children. American society has that backward. On Friday or Saturday night, a date with your spouse, in loving her, is more important than an event for your child.) A single person has the ability to go about day to day doing what he or she wants to do, serving God without being concerned about a spouse or family. But, a married man can't just do whatever he wants, but needs to take care of his wife and, if he has any, children.

       Moreover, because the husband and wife are living together in one household, there can be conflicts between the two different personalities. The two people will likely share a lot of interests, but there will still be conflict. In miscellaneous situations, one may feel one way is better, and the other another way. For instance, on a small scale, the husband may want to spend Saturday watching the football game, while the wife wants to go to the Home & Garden show in town. Or, the husband may have office work he needs to get done at home, but wife may want him to watch T.V. with her. On a more grander scale, the wife may want the children to go to Christian schooling, while the husband may favor public school. So, conflicts are unavoidable. But these “worldly troubles” as they are called doesn't make marriage bad (ESV). It's just the single person is free from these kinds of issues.

       Now, let's look at the next section of text. These are verses 29 through 34:

“This is what I mean, brothers and sisters: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (ESV)

Now, when Paul talks about people living as though they did not have a spouse, he is not saying that a person is not responsible for his spouse as he just spent time saying he or she is responsible. What he means here is that, in comparison with God's work, the marriage relationship is less important. Doing the work God has set aside for a person to do is the most important thing, we, as Christians, do in this life. Just as “the present form of this world is passing away,” so also is a person's marriage passing away. What I mean is that the marriage relationship between a man and woman is temporary, limited to this life. Since there is no marriage in heaven, marriage is less important compared to our godly works which do indeed have eternal rewards. Not to say that you wont be rewarded for a good marriage, but God's works are the primary focus you should have.

       Again, Paul points out the single people will be able to devote themselves more to the things of God. He noted, “But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (ESV). Now, like stated before, it is not wrong to marry. Paul emphasizes that, “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you” (ESV). God doesn't want people to get so caught up in their marriage, that they lose sight of serving Him.

       In this next section of text, Paul reemphasizes that a person can marry. Verses 36 through 38 state:

“If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” (ESV)

It would appear in looking at this passage that the idea here is that a father is free to release is daughter to marry if she wants to get married, regardless of his own prior wishes. In the society at the time, fathers certainly had control and say in who their daughters married. Where Paul says, “let them marry—it is no sin,” seems to be talking to fathers. Correspondingly, that would mean the next verse is saying that if a daughter doesn't want to marry, that the father can keep his daughter from getting married for the Lord's sake. Bottom line, for application in today's American society, I would say, fathers, don't prevent your daughter from marrying if she wants to, as long as the man is a Christian. And same would be true for sons.

       In finishing the chapter, Paul talks about the commitment marriage brings for people until their death. He says in verses 39 and 40:

“A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (ESV)

You see, from the very beginning God expected marriage between a man and a woman to last until one of the party’s die, or both die. That's why often times in marriage ceremonies you'll here a phrase like, “Till death do you part?” That is, marriage is supposed to be a permanent institution between two people until one or both die. Divorce is not supposed to happen. No one should ever go into a marriage thinking, 'If this don't work out, I'll just divorce.' When you get married, you are making a vow and commitment before God Almighty, and he takes the words of the people seriously. The two become one-flesh, which means the two become spiritually one. This is a supernatural thing that God does and the people should be not separated by human means.

       Finally, Paul points out that a person who is widowed can remarry to another person. The only stipulation here is that the person be a believer, and that is true when any Christian is marrying. A Christian should never marry a non-Christian. It doesn't make spiritual sense or worldly sense. The person is just setting him or herself up for trouble. The unbeliever will not value the same things as the believer, and will surely lead the believer away from wholly and purely serving the Lord. And Paul also points out that, for a widow, it is good if they remain single. This is for the same reasons he has already discussed, in that married people have more worldly troubles. In ending, Paul explains his godly authority in these matters by saying, “And I think that I too have the Spirit of God” (ESV). Paul was saying these words are trustworthy, and they are, for they are God's Words.

       In closing today, it is important to remember that God wants all people to be in a personal relationship with him. Maybe today you're not in a relationship with God, maybe you don't know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Remember, God wants everyone to be in right relationship with him. He sent his Son, Jesus, to the earth 2,000 years ago and he paid the penalty for all sins against God, as he was the perfect sacrifice for sins. Anyone who believes on Jesus can be forgiven of all his or her sin against God and can be set free from sin. You don't have to carry the load and weight of your sins any longer. God has made it possible to live in true freedom like you were originally intended to live. And not only are you able to live true life, but you will also be given eternal life. Since your sins will be forgiven, you will not have to face any of God's wrath in the future.

       If you would like to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior today, and be set free from sin, then just follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I am a sinner, and, in fact, I have sinned throughout my whole life. I have done things the way that I have wanted to do them, and it has not turned out so great. But now, I accept your free gift of life now and eternal life in the future through Jesus Christ. I believe that you sent Jesus to the earth and that he died on the cross in my place, and that this action by Jesus, the blood He shed, now stands as the payment for my sins, which separated me and you. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and that He is now in heaven with you. I surrender my life over to you. Father, please transform my life and make me like Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton