I Corinthians 7
Many have accused Paul of prejudice against marriage. Paul is often misunderstood because people have taken verses out of context. The background and traditions of that day have become unknown to many today. Some assume Paul was saying one thing, when in actuality the meaning is contrary to their connotations.
Most of what Paul says about marriage, is from the Lord, who instituted it. It is not Paul's ideas we are reading, but it is the Lord's teaching of truth. Paul is careful to document anything he says in his epistles that is from him, and not from the Lord. What the Lord says is infallible. There are no contradictions, perhaps misconceptions, misinterpretations of what is said.
THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF MARRIAGE
I Corinthians 7:2
"...let every man have his own wife..."
The word "let" means "allow." So we should allow every man to have a wife. This does not mean that every man is required to marry, but that the gospel puts no hindrance to marriage.
"He that finds a wife, finds a good thing."
Jesus attended a marriage at Cana, and blessed it with His first recorded miracle. (John 2:1-11)
God said in Genesis 2:18:
"It is not good that man should be alone..."
Paul was answering some particular questions of the congregation at Corinth. His instructions regarded some problems peculiar to that place and that time.
I Corinthians 7:1
"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me..."
Paul is not giving the whole of the thoughts of God on the subject of marriage. Rather he is seeking to settle questions that have been raised. His subject is therefore limited to those specific problems.
Paul dealt with marriage as it was in Corinth, not as it is in God's plan, and in the future ideal... In Corinth, marriage was arranged by the parents. Love played little, if any, part in the deciding of marriage partners. Very often the bride and the groom met each other only shortly before the wedding. Thus, you will notice that Paul addresses fathers in verse 36, for they often had the determining vote on the subject.
Many of the new converts, who were as yet unmarried, were promised to a young woman that they did not know. Oftentimes she was still not converted from the pagan, promiscuous lifestyle of the unsaved Corinthians... Therefore, Paul begins his answer to the questions on marriage with this counsel...
I Corinthians 7:1
"...It is good for a man not to touch (Greek = haptomai = to set on fire, to attach oneself to) a woman..."
Paul is not saying that remaining single is preferred above marriage, but that with the present crisis in Corinth, it is better to remain unmarried now, and settle some issues, and re-arrange the long-range plans, in order that some marriage unions that would be disasters would not be entered into.
Paul is not putting marriage on a low level, but putting it upon a high level. He is counseling restraint, and not following through with planned marriages made by an unsaved father... Things had changed with the conversion of many in Corinth. What once would have been an acceptable union, would now, with the conversion of one of the two promised partners, be unwise.
Some had already realized this, and were trying to remain unmarried. Many of these were finding it to be difficult to remain unmarried. Paul spoke here to that particular problem. He did allow them to go ahead and marry...
I Corinthians 7:9
"But if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn..."
There are practical realities, and Paul understood the desires of young couples wanting to marry, and desiring sexual union with one they love and with whom they want to spend their lifetime. Paul is addressing particular problems of some in Corinth... but he is very careful to show what is a command from God, and what is his opinion and advice.
On some he commands...
I Corinthians 7:10
"And unto the married, I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband..."
On others he advises...
I Corinthians 7:
vs. 6 "But this speak this by permission, and not of commandment..."
vs. 7 "For I would that..."
vs. 8 "I say therefore to..."
vs. 12 "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord..."
vs. 25 "...I have no commandment of the Lord, yet, I give my judgment..."
vs. 35 "And this I speak..."
vs. 40 "...after my judgment, and I think also that I have the Spirit of God..."
THE PRESENT DISTRESS
I Corinthians 7:26
"I suppose therefore that it is good
for the present distress..."
Persecution was great at this time, and it was dangerous to be a Christian. Sometimes, the revelation of one being a Christian meant the loss of livelihood, and sometimes even death. In such situations, , celibacy was preferable. Marriages would have such a burden attached, that it was wise to postpone the wedding until things subsided.
The newly married couple were to spend a year together, without working... This was to allow them to spend much time together, and build a loving relationship. This honeymoon was an ideal way to start the marriage. Yet, with the persecution, the stigma of being a convert to an outlawed religion, and the poverty made such a honeymoon virtually impossible... it was wise to postpone weddings for a while.
Marriage at that time would make the persecution more difficult. If a man had to be concerned with the safety of his new wife, it would be more difficult to make the decisions forced upon him by the persecutors. While in the ideal, marriage is the taking to oneself a helpmate, a companion, one who could help the other through the sufferings.... in this case, the marriage would be a hindrance. Knowing the "present distress" makes the words of Paul take on a different meaning than many have imposed upon his words.
Enoch was a very holy man... He "walked with God... and begat sons and daughters..."
So marriage does not make one to be less holy.
Some missionaries though have forgone marriage so not to put a mate through the hardship of the circumstances of their ministry. Jesus speaks of "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake..."
Paul desired the people to postpone marriage for the present distress, the trouble at hand... but is not saying that all his advice was to be followed for more normal, or for other circumstances.
Some fathers desired to keep their daughters from marrying the man to whom she was promised. If he had not accepted Jesus, this would put a great burden on the converted daughter to be married to a pagan, who would most likely persecute her for her faith. And even if the man to whom she had been promised had accepted Jesus, the marriage would have a shaky start due to the persecution, and the lack of resources at the present time to have the year long honeymoon. The "present distress" must be considered while interpreting Paul's advice.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR THOSE CONTEMPLATING MARRIAGE
A. EACH PERSON MUST DETERMINE THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEMSELVES
It is dangerous to try to impose celibacy on someone else. "Forbidding to marry" is one of the doctrines of devil's mentioned in I Timothy 4:1-3. Therefore, we must be careful to avoid, wherever possible, forbidding a young couple that are in love to marry.
Being in love may be a good reason to marry, but it is not a perfect reason. One may be in love with someone unsuitable. One may be in love with one that cannot be trusted. Love is not always lasting and enduring. Falling in love is not an irresistible emotion. Love needs a good foundation, and needs to still be built upon throughout the whole marriage.
B. MARRIAGE IS A SACRED TIE, THAT SHOULD NOT BE BROKEN
When people marry, they make a promise to each other and to God. This is a pledge and a vow. Since it is a vow to honor this union, any breaking of this union purposely is a sin.
"When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed."
Whenever the vows to God in a marriage are not kept, the results are very tragic. The discord and heartaches that result affect many innocent lives. Marriage is a God-given institution. Divorce destroys that which God instituted. Either divorce itself is sin, or the divorce is a result of a sin. God does not desire divorce. The sickest person can be healed by God; and likewise the most troubled marriage can be healed by God.
"Let no man say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted of God:' for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted He any man."
The purpose of the religious wedding service is to emphasize the spiritual side of marriage. The religious service does not make the marriage have a spiritual significance, for all marriages have the spiritual element whether the ceremony is religious or simply civil. God instituted marriage, and is present at all ceremonies.
C. GOD WANTS TO BLESS MARRIAGES, AND BE THE HEAD OF THE MARRIAGE UNION
If the two entering into the marriage will remain submissive to God, the marriage will have a blessing upon it that will astound the world. The submission to God is not a one time event at the wedding.
The two can stray from submissiveness to the Lord, and the marriage will cease to be blessed.
Jesus does His best work on a marriage from the inside, if He dwells in the hearts of both of the couple, He can heal every hurt, bandage every attack from the devil, and lift up the fallen and broken marriage. If one or both do not have the Lord dwelling within them, the marriage has a handicap that is almost more than can be borne in our society.
The wedding is a contract between God and two people who want to unite and become ONE. God witnesses every marriage, and unites each couple that weds in a new way. The two become ONE.
Man was not meant to be alone.
"A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become ONE flesh."
This ONENESS comes when two individuals are united into this special relationship called marriage. It does not come by love alone. It only occurs and continues as the two totally give themselves to and for each other. Any straying from that ONENESS is destructive to the marriage.
Some attempt marriage and want to have separate friends, separate interests, and separate religious faiths. These things make the marriage a TWO - who occasionally try to have a ONENESS.
D. THE LORD JESUS IS THE BOSS
The vows in marriage are meant to show the closeness and oneness of the union. The two are to share each others' total love, health, wealth, circumstances, and to give themselves totally to each other. This is a submissiveness to the other partner that is only possible in a marriage.
When we enter marriage, we are to vow to work together as a unit, and not individually. The age long argument of "Who's the boss?" illustrates the breakdown of that concept. For the idea in that question is that there are TWO, and that ONE should be the BOSS. However, if there is only ONE, how can there be a BOSS?
It is like the two hands of our body, each hand is a separate entity, in one way; and yet - they are both part of the same body. There is no argument on which hand is the boss. The boss is the head of the body. In the same way, when two people join in marriage, they are part of the ONE body, and Christ is the head of the family, the two are like the two hands which join together in the work for the Lord, following His instructions.
The two hands being both part of the same body will work together, aid each other, care for the hurts inflicted on either, and each follow the instructions of the head of the body.
One hand is usually dominant, and in most cases, a person is right-handed. The right hand, being then the most agile and strong, is more likely to lift the load, carry the burdens, and do the more difficult tasks. Since I am right-handed, I pitched the baseball with my right hand, and the left hand caught the ball when someone threw it back. This teamwork was like the two who become part of one body, and work together then as one. The one hand may be more agile, and the other may have another role in which it can play the key role, but they are two who work together as one.
The two partners in a marriage have the husband who is the "head", but this is not a role of despotic leadership, but of dominant burden bearing. The husband bears the heavier load in responsibility.
The beautiful institution of marriage has been torn apart by the argument of "Who's the boss?" True marriage as instituted by God does not need a DESPOT. When a devoted couple has become ONE in their interests, ONE in their mutual caring, and ONE in their desire to fulfill the other's needs -there is no need for a BOSS.
Traditionally, the authority was vested in the husband. Many have mistakenly tried to make a few verses in the Bible to propagate that concept. Women's lib has tried to change the concept, and put the woman in control. Some of this generation have attempted to make it a 50-50 deal. All of these concepts have resulted in an enormous divorce rate, and many, many unhappy marriages.
Let's look at what the Bible teaches.
"Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it..."
At first glance, many have seized on the "husband is the head of the wife..." These have tried to make the wife the obedient and second- place member of a TWO-SOME.
How can this be, if they are to be ONE?
The truth is that both are to submit to the other (verse 21). The husband is given the job of being the head (under Christ) when differences appear. Yet, the harder, and more responsible job is given the husband. He is to love his wife "as Christ loved the church." What a challenge! How can any husband measure up to that command. There is no husband of any time who has totally measured up to that challenge.
Yet, the complaint that is often heard is the one about wives not obeying the husband. If a woman ever married a man who would love as Christ loved the church... she would have no trouble submitting and remaining ONE in caring and seeking to fulfill the husband's needs and desires.
The husband is given so difficult a task, that to love as Christ loved the church, is a lifetime, insurmountable task. Christ so loved the church that He left all the power, joys, and riches of heaven... to be born in a lowly stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and live in the poverty of this world for 33 years. At the end of His earthly life, He died for this church. Can any husband measure up to such love and sacrifice?
If a husband could love that way, would he be seeking to dominate, boss, and be a despot to the wife? Would he demand that she obey? Or would he be seeking to fulfill her every need? Would he give his all for her? Would he remain in the ONENESS of the relationship that God desires?
The wife of such a husband would find it easy to allow the husband to be the head, for his decisions would not be selfish, cruel, or unloving. His decisions would almost always be for what she wanted, what she needed, and what she desired. How easy for a wife to allow a man to be her SERVANT.
That's right, I did use the word "SERVANT" for the husband. For we are commanded to be the "HEAD" as Christ was, and Christ was a "HEAD" Who took the form of a "SERVANT" for the church.
"Let this same mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a SERVANT..."
The idea of being like Christ, is a heavy challenge, for it makes the husband to be the "SERVANT" of the wife. He will seek to please and care for this wife, as Christ pleases and cares for the church. As Christ was the "Head", and yet took the role of SERVANT willingly; so the husband should willingly take the role of SERVANT to the wife. Then the husbands are closer to fulfilling the heavy task placed upon them.
The truth of the teaching of the Bible, on "Who's the BOSS?" is that the husband may be the HEAD, but he is instructed to be the HEAD as Christ is the HEAD. This puts the husband in the position of being a SERVANT seeking to please a wife that he loves dearly.
If those in marriages would seek to fulfill the verses in Ephesians, there would rarely be a divorce. Instead, many men seek to dominate and rule. Some women seek to liberate themselves and rule themselves. Some try to evenly divide the decisions 50-50. Unfortunately, few try to have the ONENESS of union, and few men will love their wives so much that they willingly make themselves the SERVANT to the wife. In God's plan for marriage, though the man is the HEAD, he is to love too dearly to ever be despotic, domineering, or bossy.
I have preached this many times.
No one has ever given Scripture to prove this
Yet, I find many who reject its truths,
live different ways,
have failed marriages, and wonder
why God let it happen.
If BOTH would live marriage as the Lord
it would be beautiful.
Marriage has become scary for many.
They prefer 'living together' and that is a sure
way to disaster.
God's way is beautiful, but few have
the will to try it.