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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 7:25-40

19/02/2012

Paul’s Connubial Conclusions!
1st Corinthians 7:25-40

Our discussion of chapter seven of the book has revealed that Paul encourages marriage, as the Christian foundation of society. He is at great pains to deal with the contemporary situation in Corinth. He advises Christian singles to exercise self restraint, and advises people who would suffer too much from the temptations of sinful society, to marry, and thus not to burn with lust. He warns that Christians should only marry within the faith. He deals with mixed marriages, and advises the Christian party always to remain within the marriage, to bring a sanctifying influence to the marriage, and to keep the children of the marriage from over familiarisation with this sinful world. For every Christian, he urges contentment with their situation, and he uses the illustration of how slaves should be content to serve their masters, and how we should be able to reconcile differences over outward forms of religion within the local assembly.
In this section, Paul begins his summing up of all he has already taught, and he begins by giving some sound advice to those who are unmarried and people who have lost their marriage partner through death.

I remember some time ago hearing a tape of a sermon given at a young people’s rally, the speaker at the rally belonged to a strict Reformed Baptist Church in the USA. Using this chapter as his warrant, he advised the young people present to marry as soon as possible in life, pointed out that the present custom of leaving marriage until after university and career establishment led many young people into the sin of fornication and promiscuity! Young people should marry early and begin a family straight away! That was his argument! What would Paul say? He deals here with three different groups of people:-

Paul’s Advice to Virgins
The Greek word here, παρθενωϖ – Parthenon, really does refer to young ladies, or as the Amplified Bible puts it, to ‘marriageable maidens.’ And Paul again notes that Jesus Himself has laid down no specific commands as regards their position. Obviously, this is another question that has been raised by the church at Corinth in their letter, so Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, replies with some advice. He refers here to something, which he has not previously mentioned. There is impending distress for the Corinthian Church! What could it be? Obviously Paul knew, and the Corinthians would know exactly what he meant! But we are not told! We do know however, that persecution has always been the lot of the faithful church. The Church has only been at rest when she has lost her fervour. Paul was writing this epistle around the middle of the first century.

We know that in Rome, persecution against Christians was raging. Nero, the Roman emperor between 54 and 68 AD was a particularly vicious persecutor of the church. In 64AD a great fire, which began in some shops, raged throughout Rome. The buildings were wooden, and for nine days most of the city was engulfed in the flames. Whether or not he fiddled while Rome burned is uncertain, but Nero was blamed for the fire, for he used the reconstruction of Rome to provide himself with a well appointed pleasure garden, on the site previously occupied by the homes of the poor. To deflect this criticism, he blamed the Christians. Tacitus, the historian records the events that followed. “A vast number were conviced… of hatred for all mankind. They were gibbeted in various ways for popular amusement. Some were wrapped in the skins of wild beasts and torn apart by dogs, some nailed to crosses or burnt alive to illuminate the night.” Nero himself dressed as a soldier and mingled with the crowds to enjoy the spectacle.

All of those who were so treated were self-confessed Christians! Was this the distress that Paul talked about? Would this distress spill over from Rome and affect the Corinthian church?

In 7:29 Paul reminds these young women, that they are to live in the light of the Lord’s coming. This will influence their lives, and ours also! Time is short! God is ‘winding up’ this present age! (The Amplified Bible) So Christian people must not live for this age! 29-30. This teaching will affect our marriages! Paul’s argument here is that we are not to marry for this world! It will soon be gone! Three times in this passage he links marriage with his eschatological expectations. Verses 26, 29, 31. It would be good advice for our young people contemplating marriage today. They seem to need so much! They demand a house and all the furniture and the fancy fixtures and the idealistic, materialistic lifestyle of this world. Sometimes they will not wait for these things! They will go deeply into debt to have the same luxuries as their peers. They forget that the things of this world are of little importance in the light of eternity.

So let us be aware of the danger of being absorbed by this world! 31. For when we are taken up by this world, and finding fulfilment in the things of this world, we are distracted from our true purpose in life, which is to glorify God in our lives, whether single or married.

There is another aspect to marriage in this age, and it must have been the same in Corinth. There is the natural anxiety of marriage! 7:32 I don’t know about you, but I do worry about my wife. I worry about what would happen to her, if I were not here. I worry about her when she is out and about on her own in the car. I worry about her when I am away from home without her! There is a natural anxiety that goes with marriage.

But the unmarried Christian, in verses 32 & 34 will have time to seek and do the will of the Lord, without the worry and anxiety of family responsibility. So, if the Lord calls him to study for the ministry, he will be able to go, or if the Lord calls her to be a missionary, she will go! Whereas the married Christian. ( 33-34) will be anxious to please his wife, or her husband. There will always be that added worry. We must always consider our family responsibilities and they will act as constraints on our available service for the Lord.

I can only use the illustration of those called to pastoral ministry, for that is all that I know. For the man who would seek to serve the Lord in parish or pastoral ministry there are financial considerations. A man must take good care of his family. 1 Tim. 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. And there are time considerations. We need to make time for our families! Many ministry marriages run unto the rocks, simply because the demands of time on the marriage drive the partners apart.

There are also psychological considerations. The minister may be prepared to leave everything and go to Timbuktu to serve the Lord. But how will his family cope with the isolation? How will they cope when someone in a church uses them to get at the minister?

So, is celibacy the ideal? Sometimes! But never enforced celibacy! 1 Corinthians 7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. It is perfectly true that many Christians have chosen a way of life that is unsuited to marriage. They dedicate themselves voluntarily to the Lord, and give their whole lives over to Him. They serve Him on some foreign mission field.

I know one single lady who went to South America and lived with some remote tribe for many years. She lived a native lifestyle, in a house similar to the people to whom she was witnessing. She ate their food; she wept with them and laughed with them. She learnt their language and she adopted their culture. Slowly but surely she gained their respect and their trust, and eventually she began to tell them about her God, and Her Saviour. They loved her, and they knew what she had given up to be with them, and many of them trusted her Saviour. She could never have done that great work if she had been tied to a husband and a home. She actually only returned home when her aging mother became ill and needed her daughter’s help with every day life.

Paul himself, a travelling missionary, could never have been able to do his great ministry with the ties of a wife and family. This voluntary yielding of the life to Christ is a great blessing. It is different from the enforced celibacy that we see in Roman Catholicism, a system that has resulted in disastrous results.

Paul’s Advice to Engaged Couples
There was a custom in the ancient Christian world, and which later church counsels would have to deal with. Some people would live together in a kind of ‘trial marriage’ to see if they could do so without engaging in marital arrangements. Such people would consider themselves ‘engaged.’ Others would be urging Christian couples to have long engagements, so that they will remain ‘pure’ as long as possible. (‘Past the flower of her youth’) It can easily be seen just how many problems these views on engagement would cause! Paul advocates an honest approach! There is a seemly way for an engaged couple to behave! if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin. Engaged couples need to maintain their Christian profession. They are not married. You would think to see some of them they already were, they are so intimate with each other.
And there comes a time for an engagement to become a marriage! Paul argues that it is more honest to marry a woman and ‘make an honest woman’ of her, than to attempt to live in such unnatural relationships. But, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry

Parents should not stand in the way of a Christian marriage! So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. I often ask the question, “Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?” and I watch the reaction on the poor father’s face as he entrusts his precious daughter to some young man he hardly knows! Sometimes Christian parents are deeply concerned about the marriage partners their children have chosen. If we nurture them in the Lord, and guide them in the Christian path, we must trust that they will make the right decisions, and we know that God will protect them!

Paul’s Advice to Widows
What of those whose marital partner has died, and after a period of time, they wish to remarry? Paul stresses the lifelong commitment! He says, 1 Corinthians 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; It is very important to remind people that marriage is a lifetime matter. I know that there are circumstances in which marriages end before that time, but we must be sure that we never divorce or separate just because it is expedient or opportune to do so.

Now we must remember that in the New Testament, there was an official role for widows in the church. It was a reaction to the age, for widows in those days had no support, especially in their late husband had no wider family to provide support. But the church is our family, and so widows were provided for within the courts of the church. James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. This ‘order of widows’ can first be seen in Acts 6, where they are provided for in daily ministrations. Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. So, in this early church, widows were deeply respected, and were considered as an opportunity for faithful service to the Lord. These widows were older ladies for they were not accepted into the order of widows until they were over sixty years of age. 1 Tim. 5:9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, (1 Tim. 5:3 Honour widows that are widows indeed). There was the great possibility that these widows, in their declining years, when sickness and poverty might arise, would seek to marry, just for the sake of security and comfort. Paul argues that she must only enter into a marriage if her future husband is a believer! This is in keeping with his teaching to young people who also seek to marry.

So, we have seen Paul’s advice to the Corinthians on these matters relating to marital happiness and family faithfulness. They apply to our society and to our families as much as they did in the time of writing.

From → Sermon Notes

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