We continue our study of Paul’s letters this week with 1 Corinthians 7. Last week, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul talked about sexual immorality in the church. In this chapter, he teaches how to avoid sexual immorality in and before marriage.
- Concerning the married, Paul writes:
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
v. 1-7 (NIV)
Pastor and author, Warren Baldwin, once wrote: “Before we are married, the devil does everything he can to get us to have sex. After we are married, the devil does everything he can to keep us from having sex (with our spouse). Sex can be one of God’s greatest blessings to us, or one of the greatest curses, depending on whether or not we follow his will.”
We are to direct all our sexual desires to our spouses and not withhold them, giving Satan an opportunity to tempt us to share that intimacy with someone else. Proverbs 5:15-20 instructs us to “Drink water from your own cistern And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? (NASB)
Paul continues instructing the married not to seek divorce:
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
…A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
v. 10-16, 39-40 (NIV)
Marriage is tough, especially if you and your spouse are not on the same page spiritually. That’s why in Paul’s judgment we are happier if we remain single. We can give all our time and attention to serving the Lord when we don’t have a spouse to be concerned with. That doesn’t mean we should seek divorce if we are married. Once we made that commitment before God, we are to honor it. If our spouses are unbelievers, or not following the Lord as they should, God will give us grace to stay and serve Him, even if serving Him causes them to flee.
- Concerning the unmarried and widows, Paul writes:
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
…Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
v. 8-9, 25-35 (NIV)
The time is short. All that we are concerned with in this life will not matter when Jesus returns. Many single Christians fall into sexual immorality by focusing on seeking a spouse. In their pursuit to find the right one, they often get involved in the wrong relationships. If their pursuit takes longer than they’d like, they often compromise their values and marry someone that isn’t God’s will for them. God’s way out of temptation is to stop seeking a spouse and start seeking Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. When their heart is in Him, He will bring the right one at the right time, unless they desire to remain single to serve the Lord as Paul did.
- Concerning the engaged to be married, Paul writes:
If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.
v. 36-38 (NIV)
Again, Paul is saying that it is better to marry than to burn with lust. I know Christians who will not be alone with their spouses so they will not be tempted to have relations before marriage. I once advised an engaged couple living together to either move out or get married. If their passions were so strong that they couldn’t resist giving into that temptation, then they should get married right away.
Lastly, Paul instructs that we should be content and obey God in whatever situation He has called us, whether single or married.
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
We praise You for these letters from Paul in Your Word. For those of us who are married, help us to be content with our spouses and not seek to be free from marriage. Help us to honor the commitment we made before You. For those who are single, help them to turn away from temptation and be content waiting on You to bring them the right spouse You have chosen for them. For those who are engaged, help them to enjoy this time with You before marriage, and help them resist the temptation to give that special gift You’ve saved only for marriage. For those who desire to remain unmarried, help them to be fully devoted to You, in body and spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
*This series will continue next week as we study 1 Corinthians 8. Have a blessed week being content in the Lord!