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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 7:1-9


The Foundation of Christian Marriage
1st Corinthians 7:1-9

We have arrived at another new section of the book. It is marked by Paul’s mention of a letter which a group of members of the congregation, had previously written to him. Paul had previously mentioned that some of Chloe’s household had informed him of the foolish and needless divisions which pertained within the Corinthian Church. (chapter 1:11) He later mentioned that he had heard about the awful immorality being practised within the church, and being tolerated by the local assembly. (chapter 5:1) This time, Paul is not responding to some second hand report of conditions within the Corinthian Church, he has received a letter from some of the members, and it is his response to the contents of that letter that occupies chapters 7 to 15. Somewhere in the local church there was a group of concerned Christians, who were so worried about the situation in the church that they wanted to seek advice from the great apostle. The first subject they want dealt with is marriage, and it is to that subject that Paul now turns. In these verses he discusses:-

The Basic Principles of a Christian Society
Paul begins his teaching by saying that ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman.’ NIV renders this ‘good not to marry.’ This fits in well with the context, but it is not what the Greek is saying (NIV is a dynamic equivalence translation, not a literal translation). Paul is meaning more that just abstaining from marriage here, he his setting a very high standard of morality indeed, in demanding that the highest estate of man is to be so highly occupied with the things of God that marriage and sex and earthly companionship are not even part of the consideration of a man’s mind! But this is not possible for the vast majority of us! We are far too weak! There are few men like Paul! So God has made allowances for us! He has given us an institution, called marriage, so that we might have our earthly desires met, and still remain within God’s will.
The principle that Paul is teaching us here, then is this: It would be perfect for a man to be so Godly that he never even thinks of a woman! But, since such men are so few, and since society is so corrupt and since sexual temptation is all around, every man should have one woman to be his own wife, and vice-versa.
Now see here, the great temptation of the pagan world!

Sexual Corruption in Corinth. We know already that Corinth was a pagan society, and that sexual vice was one of the main industries of that place. You can see the temptation that confront the Corinthian Christian every time he or she walked down the street.

Sexual corruption in today’s world! But what of today? I was surprised to find that a number of commentators on this passage suggest that Paul’s teaching on marriage should be very carefully applied today, for times have changed! Warren Weirsbe, well-respected commentator states, “Keep in mind that Paul was dealing with local problems which we may not face in the same way today.” Now, to a certain extent I agree, in that Paul was dealing with local problems in Corinth. But I believe that God’s word is not confined to 1st Century Corinth. I believe in the sufficiency of God’s Word for every time. It is as relevant today as it was then. In fact, is it not true to say that our society today, far from being a Christian society, is every bit as pagan as was the 1st Century! Just as it was then, ungodly sexual practices are institutionalised in our society, and are becoming more so, every day. Marriage is downgraded, to just one of a number of ‘lifestyle options.’
Nothing has changed! Man’s heart is still deceitful and desperately wicked!

Sexual Corruption via Modern Technology! Wait! I retract that last statement! There is one thing that has changed. Our ability to communicate vile filth, pornography and paedophilia has improved beyond the wildest dreams of the 1st century pervert. The Corinthian had to leave his home and go out into the streets to be tempted by the puerile fornication of this world. We have it in our homes, courtesy of television and the Internet.
Just a few days before Christmas 2003 the media announced that the government had swooped on an Internet paedophile ring which extended right across the world. So sophisticated was their technology that they could watch little children being molested, as it happened. Here’s what makes the story even sicker. Among their number were doctors, policemen, lawyers, clergymen, teachers….

As in Corinth, we are bombarded with temptations every day! It is wrong and foolish for someone to attempt to live a lifestyle which will mean that he is in danger of constant temptation. So marry!

But we also have, in this passage, the foundation of a principled! Although our modern society has degraded the holy estate of marriage, it is God’s way for men and women to live in happiness, and is the proper setting for raising children. In the marriage service we say, “Let us remember that marriage is more than a civil contract or social convention. Marriage is a holy estate of life, which was ordained by God from the beginning as the ordinance of human society for the lifelong companionship, devotion, help and comfort of husband and wife in prosperity and adversity. Marriage is declared by God to be honourable in all. The union of husband and wife signifies the mystical union of Christ and His Church. In the words of Scripture, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians. 5:31-32 But why is society crumbling around us? It is because biblical principles are being discarded in favour of modern, politically correct dogma. 2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. So Paul urges his readers to marry, in line with Biblical teaching, one man, one woman, one single, monogamous unit, for life. Marriage is the will of God, plan of God, and the gift of God.
A Mormon polygamist once confronted Mark Twain arguing that the Bible does not prohibit a man from having two or more wives. He challenged Twain to show him from the Bible where polygamy was forbidden. “Easy,” said Twain, “No man can serve two masters!” But he could have simply quoted this verse from 1st Corinthians!

The Blessings and Privileges of Christian Sexuality
Now, having established that marriage is the Christian Way in a Pagan Society, Paul goes on to give some guidelines for the proper conduct of a Christian marriage.
He reminds us of the blessing of mutual love. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. Our spouse deserves our love! Paul says this again to husbands in Ehesians and Colossians. Ephesians. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Col. 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. I wonder why he had to say that twice to men? Is there a tendency towards marital ‘lovelessness’ among us? For the Corinthians, saved out of a horribly sinful and lustful society, there is deeper meaning implied. A husband must never simply think of his wife as an object of sexual gratification! And so he issues…

He commands us to have mutual respect. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. They belong to each other. One cannot force the other, or expect that one will do something that the other does not want. They do not have authority over their own bodies, but must consider each other! On the other hand, there is…

He argues for the necessity for mutual agreement. In Corinth, some people may have gone to extremes in avoidance of the prevailing sin of that society. They may have said that sexual activity is sinful in itself, and that therefore, even husbands and wives should avoid sexual contact. Lest they sin., So Paul says, Defraud (deprive) ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. They must not deny each other, except for a short time, so that they may have seasons of prayer and fasting. The same principle applies even today. A marriage relationship needs to be complete in every respect!

The Bridled Passion of Christian Singles
Now here we must notice that Paul describes his own marital standing. He is single. 1 Cor. 7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. Yet we know that at one time Paul was married! He was a member of the Sanhedrin, (Acts 26:10) and one of the requirements for membership of that body was marriage! Was he a widower, or had his Jewish wife deserted him when he became a Christian? We do not know. All that we know is that Paul had mortified the flesh, and given absolutely everything for the cause of Christ. Philip. 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. Let’s see what Paul is saying to people who are still single, who are divorced or widowed:-
Firstly, Paul is not arguing that everyone must marry! 1 Cor. 7:6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. Every person has a different gift from God! Paul’s gift was the gift of SINGLENESS! “The best situation (his own) is that of the unmarried person who is under no pressure to marry, the next best is the person who must express his sexuality and does it within marriage.”
But, Paul argues here that SELF CONTROL must characterise the lives of single Christians! 1 Cor. 7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. NKJ: “If they cannot exercise self control let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” How can Christian singles exercise self control? I suggest three areas that need attention.

Single Christians should,

Reject common co-habitation! A Christian believer will never simply set up home with another and live as man and wife without first being married. Many in the world are doing it, but that does not mean that we should!

Rejoice in Christian courtship! Now, Christian courtship is important. Young people, going out together need to sit down and to seriously discuss their relationship, and to agree together how the intimate areas of their relationship will be conducted. Sexual activity outside marriage is always wrong, so here are some principles to guide them.

Learn that there is an alternative to the wisdom of the world. The sexual liberation movement would give them advice such as, ‘always use a condom.’ There is an alternative! Say NO to sex outside marriage!

Christian parents and teachers and others with influence over young people must take a strong stand for abstinence, and stress its positive benefits! Stress that Christian abstinence is healthy, that teenage pregnancy ruins lives, and that abortion is morally wrong and mentally disabling! Be firm in teaching that immoral relationships bring shame and guilt and disappointment. Tell them that it is OK to wait, and that they should not become involved in sexual activity just because their friends and peer group have different views. Teach them that their own personal habits, their speech (flirting) the places they go (worldly discos & pubs) their companions, even the way that they dress will send out messages to the opposite sex.

Avoid being in places where compromise becomes possible. Avoid long periods alone with each other. Enjoy each other’s company, but at the same time, spend time with other people, even with other people of the same age group! Avoid overnight stays when no-one else is at home. Watch how you kiss, and express your love to each other. Avoid temptation.

Reflect a clear consecration! Holiness of life must not just be done, it must be seen to be done. The Bible says, 1 Thes. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

I had a problem in a church. A young couple had arranged for their marriage, and had purchased a house. The girl was a Sunday School Teacher. They were keen to get the house decorated and ready to move in, so they worked long and hard at the decoration of the new home. One day a woman came to see me. She said that she was taking her children out of the Sunday School and the reason was that she had seen this young couple go into the house at night but not seen them come out again. I confronted them, and they denied that they stayed overnight together, or that they were doing anything immoral. But they were giving the appearance that they were!

So Paul begins his teaching on families and marriage by defining his own marital state, speaking to married couples and singles, and laying some more very basic principles about Christian life in a sinful society!

From → Sermon Notes

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