- Sermon Notes
1 Corinthians 7:1-40
As we come to chapter 7, we begin a new section of Paul’s letter where he is answering some questions they sent to him, probably as a response to his first letter.
The first questions had to do with marriage, sexuality in marriage and being single. The church was in Corinth and as we discussed last week, that city was the “Amsterdam of the ancient world.” It was the very center of immorality in the Roman Empire. The temple of Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love, was right there in Corinth and immorality was part of the culture of the day. The temple of Aphrodite today, otherwise known as the Internet, is still a part of our modern culture.
The response of the church was in two extremes. One group, who were mere men, or spiritually immature, needed strong correction and a better understanding of the heart of God. They were not spiritually appraising this thing rightly. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? God forbid it. May never be!”
There was another group, however, who took the other extreme and believed that since sexuality was the root of all such immorality, then the best response should be to exclude sexuality in every form, and that included the idea that there should be no sexuality even in marriage.
Paul responds with correction of that view as well. In other words, Paul is saying, abstaining from sexuality in marriage is a terrible idea.
This chapter is filled with practical spiritual application and it’s good for everyone to understand spiritual maturity so it can be applied to every area of life. Marriage is important for everyone to understand from a spiritual perspective. Many people are married, or would like to be, so these verses are very practical.
Where do we get our ideas on marriage? Mostly from our culture and often that’s not much help at all.
Some kids were asked, “How do you decide who to marry?”
- “You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports – and keep the chips and dip coming.” -- Allen, age 10
- “No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides at all way before, and you get the find out later who you’re stuck with.” --Kirsten, age 10
Another child was asked how to stay happily married…
- “Be a good kisser. It might make your wife forget that you never take out the trash.” -- Erin, age 8
I. Let Marriage be held in Honor
- That phrase actually comes from a verse in Hebrews, but it captures Paul’s thoughts very well.
- The question they asked Paul was probably, “Is it good for a man not to touch a woman at all, even if they’re married?”
- “It’s good for a man not to touch a woman outside of marriage,” Paul is saying, but then comes the correction, because they took it too far.
A. Don’t deprive one another
- Paul says that sexual intimacy in marriage is a good thing. It’s a blessing from God to be enjoyed and you should not deprive one another from that blessing.
- Paul then gets very practical. Because of immoralities, he said, it’s good to have a healthy sexual relationship. Good character and spiritual maturity is still required, but a good, healthy relationship and marriage is very helpful.
- He even takes it one step further and says that neither spouse has authority over their own body. The husband does not have authority over his own body, and neither does the wife. In light of the culture of that day, that’s really a remarkable statement.
- The words in the Greek suggest that each has an obligation to give the affection that is due.
App - The sense you get is that there were some who were withholding sexual affection on the grounds that they were being holy, but this certainly didn’t help the other person to be holy, in fact, it pushed them towards immorality. “Stop depriving one another,” Paul responds.
- In verse 5, Paul makes an exception for the purpose of prayer -- but only for a short time and by agreement, lest Satan tempt you.
Proverbs 3:27, Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, went it is in your power to do it.
- That probably wasn’t the original intent, but it works.
- It’s important that we recognize Satan’s great strategy when it comes to sexuality. He will do everything he can to encourage sex outside of marriage and everything he can to discourage sex within marriage. It’s a victory for him either way.
B. It is better to marry than to burn
- In verse 7 Paul is suggesting that remaining single can be a good thing. However, Paul also recognizes that being single and content is a gift from God and that not everyone has that gift.
- If a person does not have control over their strong sexual desires, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire, Paul is saying.
- Later in this chapter Paul makes the point that a person who is not married is able to give more single hearted devotion to the Lord. (Verse 32)
- Verse 28 - If you should marry, you certainly have not sinned, Paul is saying, “Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I’m trying to spare you.” A lot of people find Paul’s comment quite humorous, probably because it’s so close to reality.
- In other words, marriage is not easy; it requires a huge investment of heart and soul and sometimes the troubles of marriage can be gut-wrenching.
Illus - A couple from another church asked if they could come in and talk about their marriage. After a few minutes I said, “I think I know your problem.” I said to the wife, “You don’t feel loved,” and then I said to the husband, “You don’t feel respected.” “Wow, that’s amazing,” they said, “how did you know?” Answer – that’s where they all fall short!
C. Love God first
- Verse 35 - Paul’s goal, he says, is to promote what is honorable and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
- In other words, your love for God should be first.
- The person who is married is concerned for their spouse in how they may please them, or at least they should be. What I’ve found, however, is that God can use that concern for your spouse to make you a better person, to make you more godly.
Illus - When my son, Sasha, graduated from training for Special Forces, I flew out to North Carolina for the ceremony and then we drove back together. Let’s just say it was a man’s kind of trip. When I’m with my wife, she wants me to drive “like my mom’s in the car.”
- The point Paul is making is that both the single person and the married person should be concerned how to please the Lord. The interests of a married person are divided and so it’s easier to have single hearted devotion if you’re single.
- That being said, it’s also easy to be single and yet lack devotion to the Lord because they’re not content in their singleness.
- The key is to learn the secret of being content.
Philippians 4:11-13, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am...I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
- But being content in marriage requires godly character and spiritual maturity as well.
II. God Honors Marriage
- In the next section, Paul gives several principles and instructions that show us that God honors marriage.
- These are great principles of wisdom that everyone should understand whether they’re married or not because they give us the ability to appraise things spiritually.
A. God hates divorce
- I know there are a lot of people who have experienced or are experiencing divorce and I’m certainly not here to make you feel badly about the past, my heart is to speak about what God wants for your future.
- I think everyone here who has been divorced would join me in speaking to the importance of strengthening marriage and being spiritually mature so you can avoid divorce in the future.
- The number one reason given for divorce today is “irreconcilable differences.” There are always going to be differences; do they have to be irreconcilable?
Illus - As Ruth Graham once said, “The best marriages are made of two great forgivers.”
- Verse 10-11 -- The wife should not leave her husband and the husband should not send away his wife.
- The Jewish rabbis had two opposing views. Rabbi Shammai taught that there was virtually no justifiable reason for divorce. Rabbi Hillel held a liberal view and taught that a man could divorce for any reason at all. According to him, if a wife made the coffee too strong that would be grounds for divorce, or if she burnt the toast, or didn’t please him in this way or that; he could divorce her.
- The Jewish leaders presented the debate to Jesus. Interestingly, Jesus had just finished speaking about forgiveness. But He responded to the question by saying, “Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of your heart, but from the beginning it has not been this way.”
- Jesus then one on to explain that adultery is the only allowance for divorce. However, here in the letter to the Corinthians, Paul adds that if an unbelieving spouse leaves, let him leave, the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, because God has called us to peace.
- Verse 15 - Paul gives several principles to build his case in these verses.
- If you’re married to an unbeliever and he or she consents to live with you, let it be and do not send them away simply because they’re an unbeliever.
- Paul says in several places that Christians should not be unequally yoked; they should marry a believer. That being said, what if you find yourself in that condition anyway? Then let it be, if they want to stay, let them stay, God has called us to peace.
Illus - My wife knows of a woman who came to the Lord and, misunderstanding the scriptures, left her unbelieving husband. He then wanted nothing to do with the Lord; how tragic.
- Verse 16 - For how do you know whether you will save your unbelieving husband or wife? In other words, bless and love your unbelieving spouse, you never know what might happen.
- You are a temple of the Holy Spirit and marriage is created by God. Therefore it is covered by God’s favor. An unbelieving spouse is therefore blessed by it and the children also are sanctified.
C. Walk in the condition you were called
- Verse 17 -- Paul writes many verses to make this point over and over. As God has called each, in this manner let him walk.
- You can’t undo the past. Instead of thinking that you will walk for the Lord when your station changes, walk for the Lord in the place you are right now.
- Many people have troubled pasts, but whether you’re married, single, divorced, widowed, remarried, or whatever, what matters is what you do now.
- Verse 29 - The time is short, Paul is saying, use the time that you have now for the Lord. Maybe in the past you wasted your life, but the time is short, use the time you have to live for the Lord, have a sense of urgency.
- The verses that follow mean; live in the perspective of eternity. Don’t let your possessions possess you, you’ll honor your wife more when you live for the Lord.
Luke 14:16-24 We have been invited to the banquet of the King…
Hebrews 11:8-10, By faith Abraham…lived as an alien in the land of promise... for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
1 Corinthians 7:1-40 NASB
1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
36 But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. 37 But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. 38 So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better. 39 A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.