1 Corinthians 7:1-24

Scripture

1 Corinthians 7:1-24

Observations

  • Paul is answering a question that they had asked in a letter to him
  • The first question was whether or not they should have any sexual relations what-so-ever
  • Paul says yes, but it should be between a husband and a wife because everything else is immoral
  • In a married relationship sex is a matter of serving the other partner
  • The man’s body is meant to serve his wife, he belongs to her
  • The woman’s body is meant to serve her husband, she belongs to him
  • He tells them to stop refusing to have sex with their marriage partner thinking that it is more pleasing to God
  • The only exception to this is a short time of co-agreement where the couple has decided to spend some focused time in prayer.
  • Even in this case it should be a short time so that one or the other person won’t be sexually tempted to break the marriage bond.
  • Paul’s personal preference is that Christians were single like himself, however, Paul understands that is not God’s will for every person
  • He suggests that if you are single and can remain so without temptation it might be better to live a life totally devoted to God (his opinion)
  • But if they really want to or can’t control their sexual desire, they are free to get married in the eyes of the Lord.
  • Paul shares Christ’s view on marriage between Christians which is that they should not get divorced at all, and if they can’t fulfill that commitment they should separate and stay single or else reconcile with their original marriage covenant partner.
  • He then shares his spiritual opinion on those who are married to unbelievers (this assumes they became Christian while married for a Christian is NOT to marry an unbeliever)
  • Paul says that if the unbeliever is willing to remain married to the Christian that they should stay with their spouse and not leave them (presumably to marry a Christian).
  • One of the reasons is that the blessing that God extends to the believer He also extends to their family (both spouse and children.
  • Another reason is that in time the unbeliever may come to know Jesus because of the influence of their Christian spouse.
  • However, if the unbeliever leaves and doesn’t want to be married to the Christian, the Christian is released from their marital commitment before God
  • Paul then shares a general principle that they remain as they were when they decided to follow Jesus.
  • If they lived a kosher (Old Testament dietary laws) Jewish life before, they should continue living that way
  • If they lived an un-kosher Jewish life, they should continue living that way
  • For whether you live Kosher or not is secondary to following Jesus
  • If someone had become a bond-servant (slave) before they came to Jesus they should fulfill that commitment
  • However, if they can legally fulfill their obligation and become free they should
  • Ultimately, whether slave or free Christians are free in Christ because Jesus has set them free
  • Paul then says that a free man should not choose to become a slave to someone because he belongs to Christ (this would also assume that Christians shouldn’t have a slave for the same reason)
  • Again, Paul affirms that each person should remain in the place they were when they became a Christian

Application

The basic idea is that we have to be careful not to over spiritualize life. Many zealous Christians go too far in making rules that may be good for them, but is a far cry from what Jesus requires from everyone. The Corinth Christians wanted to show they were zealous for Jesus by saying no to all sexual relations or choosing to live under the law like the Jews. Paul affirmed that the focus on Christ was noteworthy, for he himself was more focused on Jesus because he was single. However, he also affirmed that this isn’t God’s will for everyone. A Christian who was married or wanted to get married was good with God. And they should feel free to serve their partner in engaging in loving sex within the marriage covenant (between one man and one woman). However, Paul is NOT giving license for a man or woman to force themselves or their sexual preferences onto their partner because their spouse’s body is theirs to do with what they please. That would be a misrepresentation of many other passages which teaches Christians to serve one another and yield our preferences to each other.

It is also noteworthy here that though Paul had a direct command for Christians married to other Christians that his direction to Christians married to unbelievers was his opinion. In other words, they are words of wisdom but not necessarily a command. His guidance is that a Christian should stay married because that was the initial commitment they made. He believes this is good because there would be spiritual benefit to both the spouse as well as to the children. However, he does say that if the person can’t make this work and they decide to leave the marriage they should remain single or hope to reconcile with their original spouse. He also says that if the unbelieving spouse decides to leave that the Christian is released from the marriage commitment (and therefore assumedly would be free to marry again). In other words, Paul - as Jesus did - has a high view of marriage and divorce is only a last resort (with an unbeliever) and not the recommended path for any believer.

Paul does give a high view of singleness. Many times in today’s church there seems to be an unspoken undercurrent that marriage is God’s best for the Christian. However, that view does not reflect Paul’s view here. In fact, Paul is saying the opposite. Though there is nothing wrong with being married, there is a great advantage to being single because your total attention can be devoted to Christ. We should not discourage anyone because of their marital status, but I do think we need to continue to encourage the “single” to rejoice in this season of life (or in the single life) because it is a unique and special focus for a follower of Jesus.

Paul addresses a few other areas where people may be inclined to try and be more “holy”. Some Jews thought that now they were saved it would be best to throw out all the law that Jews followed. Paul says live the life you were born into as long as it doesn’t violate your faith in Christ. In other words if you were born into a Jewish, Muslim, Asian, or American life you should continue to follow those customs that you live in as long as they don’t require you to break God’s law or worship a false god. Likewise, if you made a commitment to something that you are legally bound to, you should fulfill that commitment. And avoid getting into any commitment where you are not free to follow Jesus as He leads you.

Prayer

Father, there is so much here that we get tripped up over. Would you please reveal Your truth by the power of the Holy Spirit who resides in us. Help us hear Your voice and what You are telling us to do. Show us Your paths that we don’t try and become over zealous nor do we stay satisfied with living life by our own measurement. Please give us the discernment to know the difference. Would You encourage and bless the single person, would You heal the Christian marriages that are broken, would You give strength to the Christian who is unequally yoked and move their spouse to faith, and help us all passionately pursue You and Your will. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

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