Summary: What does God say about marriage?
The pastor was visiting the fourth-grade Sunday School class to talk about marriage as part of the lesson. He asked the class, "What does God say about marriage?" Immediately one boy replied, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Well, friends, that is not exactly a proper application of Scripture, but I think the question "What does God say about marriage?" is a very important one and a very interesting one. During the past fifteen years that I have been a pastor, I have officiated at over 50 different weddings. As I have shared with those couples some of the things which God says about marriage, I have referred to over a dozen different biblical passages. However, I have never used today's text, 1 Corinthians 7, in a wedding sermon. In fact, I don't remember hearing any pastor use this chapter at a wedding. Why is that surprising? It's because the forty verses of 1 Corinthians 7 consist of the longest, most extensive discussion of marital issues anywhere in the Bible. If you have a New International Version, you will see the heading of this entire chapter is simply Marriage. As we explore the passage, however, it will become obvious why this is a marriage text not used at weddings. 1 Corinthians 7 does not present a romantic, lofty view of marriage. If we want that, we turn ahead to 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul describes and defines true love, or to Ephesians 5, where he compares marriage to Christ's relationship with the church. Those are probably the two most frequently used Scriptures at weddings. In 1 Corinthians 7, however, Paul responds to questions that had been raised, and he addresses some very practical issues about marriage. Though we may not be concerned about some of these questions right now, I think there is great value in hearing what God has to say about this topic through Paul. So, let's pause and pray that God would help us understand and apply His Word today.
Let me explain our game plan. Next week we are going to look at Verses 10-16 in this chapter which focus on divorce, so today we will concentrate on the remainder of 1 Corinthians 7. This is not intended to be a comprehensive study of what the Bible says about marriage, nor is it to be a pep talk about getting along better with your spouse. Those would be worthwhile things to do, but I firmly believe there is great value in focusing our attention on the meaning and implications of this particular passage of Scripture. So let's do that. Paul begins by reminding us that marriage is a good thing, a gift from God. We need to keep in mind that Paul is writing as a single man, a confirmed bachelor. His personal opinion is reflected in 7:1b It is good for a man not to marry. It has been suggested that Paul had been married at one time. It would have been very unusual for a single man to sit as a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, as Paul had done before he became a believer in Christ. Some think his wife may have left him following his conversion to Christianity. Yet, this is total speculation, since nowhere in his New Testament letters does he make any reference to an ex-wife. But, though being single is a good thing for Paul, he recognizes that marriage is a genuine gift from God for others. Most obviously, he says, it provides the context for the proper expression of human sexuality. 7:2-6, 8-9 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except 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. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Sometimes Christians seem a bit embarrassed by Paul's frank discussion of the marriage relationship, but even though modesty is a good thing, we do need to come to grips with what Paul is saying. Let me point out some of the implications.