Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

1 Corinthians 7


 Chapter 7

Intimate marital relations

1.     Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

2.     But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

3.     The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

4.     For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

5.     Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

6.     Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.

The Bible provides answers for all areas of life… even very delicate areas… and the Corinthians were not embarrassed to ask Paul about them. As a result, we can simply read these first verses, without commentary, and know very clearly how to handle certain issues. I will mention one thing: The Roman Catholic church teaches that intimate, physical marital relationship is strictly for the procreation of children. That is the basic reason for it, but it is not the only reason that the Bible gives. Paul gives another reason in verse 2 and I commented on something else in an earlier chapter. I pointed to a verse in Proverbs, which I will quote here: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth… be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?” (Pro.5:18-20). You may want to review it again, as well as Hebrews13:4. A married man and his wife, committed to one another for a lifetime, fulfill a natural desire of the body and share intimacy.

Paul goes on to write about something that he calls “conjugal rights”, belonging to both the husband and the wife (3-4). He means that in marriage neither one nor the other hold selfish possession over their own bodies, but must share them. There may be mutual agreement in a Christian marriage to set a time apart for abstaining from intimate physical contact, just as time may be set apart for fasting. However, these are temporal seasons, when Christians want to devote themselves exclusively to seeking God in prayer. The normal, day-by-day Christian life includes regular eating habits, as well as a physical relationship between husband and wife (5). Paul is covering some areas that Jesus did not mention in the gospels, of which the Corinthians questioned him, but that does not mean that his answers are not inspired (6).

There is no suggestion of polygamy in the New Testament, nor was there any place for it in the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve. There is only teaching concerning a bond of love between one man and one woman. I should not even have to mention any kind of homosexual bond, because common sense teaches that all such filth is perversion and rebellion against the Creator. That was understood in Bible times by all reasonable people and it is a sign of the wickedness of our day, that we should even have to bring up the subject. The Bible clearly condemns all such practice. 

What Jesus taught concerning eunuchs

7.     I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

8.     To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

9.     But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul has a special gift, one that the Lord mentions in the Gospel of Matthew 19:11 and 12, and because of false teaching some are confused concerning it. I hope that we all can come to a clear understanding over the matter of spiritual eunuchs. Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

The Lord Jesus made it clear that this teaching is not for every Christian, “but only those to whom it is given”. Wrong applications of true Scripture are just as dangerous as false doctrine. He had been instructing on the subject of marriage and the word “eunuch” is a strong term applying to those who are, for various reasons, incapable of marriage. He said that there would be those who became eunuchs for the sake of God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul was one of these and I have known a few people, who felt that it was God’s will for them that they remain unmarried. These, however, are very few.

I know of teaching that expands on this very limited application and makes it apply to all believers. They also apply it to practices that reach far beyond marriage and includes becoming anonymous, not attaching a writer’s name to his or her work. This is a radical practice, because it is not consistent with Scripture. With few exceptions, we know the writers of Scripture and David, just to use one example, took credit for his songs and poetry. It is more consistent with the Bible, when people allow their names to be used for the glory of God. It is also a matter of accountability; we sign our names to documents as a commitment to them and a means by which we can be questioned and corrected, if necessary, for what we have written.

As God created the heavens and the earth, He did each work with a positive satisfaction that it was good… with one exception. When He created man, He stated, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Ge.2:18). Paul understood that his single status was a gift from God (7-8). We need to jump ahead to verse 26 for a moment to understand that Paul is speaking in the context of the time of his writing, when he said that he wished that all could live single, as he did. He did not wish that the church would consist of single men and women, but of families. It was an exceptional time of distress for the Corinthians, which made marriage and family life extremely difficult. Even though that was the case, he recognized the need that, unless God gave special grace, it was better for people to marry. The Lord’s natural brothers were married, as was Peter and others of the apostles (1 Co.9:5).

In the perfect state of heaven, “They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels…” Life on earth is imperfect and there is always a danger of sin. It is also not wise that there be a continual battle to hold natural passions under control. So Paul concludes that it is better to marry than to burn with passion (9).

Concerning separation and divorce

10.  To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband

11.  (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12.  To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.

13.  If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

14.  For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15.  But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

16.  For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul is now going to cite from the Gospels, getting the following doctrine directly from the Lord. “The wife should not separate from the husband… and the husband should not divorce his wife,” he said. The Lord taught in Mark 10:11-12: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” If there is a separation or divorce, he or she should not remarry. Of course, there is always a possibility of reconciliation and reunion (10, 11). I know of a case, when reconciliation took place after 25 years!

Jesus did not give any teaching concerning a believer, who is married to an unbeliever, so Paul gives his inspired word. These marriages occurred before the gospel came to Corinth. The apostle counsels that these couples should continue to live together in marriage (12, 13). Due to the Lord’s presence in the household through the believing member, He will extend His work from the believer towards the companion and the children. It does not mean that they are automatically saved, because there is a believer among them. It means that he or she adds a sanctifying element to the house through the indwelling Christ and the probability of their conversion is greatly increased (14).

However, should the unbeliever oppose the work that Christ has done in the spouse and, a conflict is created in the home, which he will not tolerate, there may be a separation. Stay together, if possible, Paul advises, and be the means through which the Holy Spirit can work and bring salvation to others within the family (16). However, no one is obligated to live in a constant spiritual battleground, if an escape is provided. May the believer find peace and not be enslaved to a life of strife, by the separation of the unbeliever (15). We might note, however, that there is no mention of remarriage here. Do not read in, what is not clearly stated.

Living realistically

17.  Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

18.  Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised|? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.

19.  For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

20.  Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

21.  Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)

22.  For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

23.  You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

24.  So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

There is a pagan saying that rather aptly fits the situation of the new-born child of God. It is: Play the hand that you are dealt! His situation may not be ideal and certainly may not be what he would like it to be, but he is to accept it and wait for God to do His work in it. Paul made it a rule (17). The Jew was still a circumcised Jew and he did not deny his ethnic heritage, because he became a Christian. It is true, above all his ethnic background, he is a Christian, but he is still a Jew. Or he may be an uncircumcised Gentile; he is not to try to be a Jew (18). There are many believers in our times, who need to take Paul’s advice, because they think that they need to return to Jewish festivals and customs. These are legalistic steps, but they are not in step with the gospel. Paul teaches consistently against such things.

Circumcision and uncircumcision are not to be considered right or wrong, or an advantage or disadvantage. They are physical conditions that are totally aside from anything that has to do with the gospel. It is only when religious convictions enter that such things carry any weight. Otherwise they are totally incidental. On the other hand, keeping the moral law of God from the heart is a way to determine, if someone is genuinely a Christian or not (19). So marital situations and cultural conditions fall under Paul’s rule in verse 17 that a person should remain as he is and not make unnecessary changes (20).

Paul also puts social status under his rule, stated in verse 17. Some new convert may think that he cannot serve God properly as a slave. The mature Christian can inform him that God will take his disadvantage and open doors and opportunities for him to serve Christ. Of course, common sense tells you that if you can be free, it is the Lord, who is providing freedom, so take it!  (21). Here is the principle: Even though you are a slave, you are free to serve Christ. If you are free, remember that you are absolutely bound to Christ, 24 hours a day (22). Your place in Christ puts you above your worldly situation. He has paid an awesome price to buy your soul; you should always consider that fact above your status among men. He gets the priority in every situation and you owe him absolute obedience (23). The difference between your situation, before and after your conversion, is that now God is in it, and that makes all the difference in the world! (24)

The present distress

25.  Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

26.  I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is.

27.  Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

28.  But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.

29.  This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none,

30.  and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods,

31.  and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32.  I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.

33.  But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,

34.  and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.

35.  I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

36.  If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly towards his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry – it is no sin.

37.  But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

38.  So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do ever better.

39.  A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

40.  Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

We are coming up on verse 26, and the following verses apply to that distressful situation. Most of us live under a cultural condition that is quite different from that of Paul’s day, although there are places in the world, where parental consent is of supreme important in marriage. However, the part that parents play should always be important, so let us consider the apostle’s teaching in this portion. Paul is writing partially to the parents of unmarried girls.

The distress of that time may have been the upcoming Roman invasion of Israel, particularly of Jerusalem, in 70 A.D. It brought upheaval to the world, particularly the Christian world. To commit to marriage at that time may have been similar to doing the same before the Nazi holocaust. In a normal situation, it is not right that those who have wives should live as though they had none (29). Be careful, false teaching on these subjects can bring enormous confusion in the church. Everything here is predicated by a time of distress, whatever that may have been. Perhaps persecution will separate married couples. It happened under communism, when pastors or other Christian fathers went to prison and wives and children were left to fend for themselves. In Romania, Richard Wurmbrand went to prison for 13 years, while his wife worked in digging a canal for the communist regime.

Of course, divorce was not the answer to the problem, but the believer should take the situation into account before considering marriage (27). Paul is not talking about sin here; that has nothing to do with his advice, although marriage might later be considered a terrible mistake, when the consequences occur (28). There is going to be serious trouble and Paul, in compassion, wants to spare them grief and worry. When sadness comes, take comfort in the Holy Spirit. When there is occasion to rejoice, beware of sudden grief. This is not a time to build up earthly possessions; get what you need, but don’t take possession of anything (30). In other words, use but don’t possess. Don’t take anything temporal seriously; in the near future, it will not be business, as usual. Separate from the world, as much as possible (31).

Here is the apostle’s motivation:  I want you to be free from anxieties.” The single man or woman will not have to think about a wife, husband, or little children (32-34). Their only concern will be to be faithful to the Lord in these times. There will be no temptation to compromise in order to save his or her family. Having to make those kinds of decisions can be brutal. It is better to only have God to think about and to please and to maintain the highest form of holiness (35). Let that be the only priority, because that is of highest importance. Paul is only looking out for their good.

Again, Paul reminds the parents, he is not talking about falling into sin, so if the Lord’s will is marriage, and it can be seen that the single person would benefit spiritually from it, then let marriage take place (36). It may be that there is true and deep love between a girl and a boy, and to deprive them of bringing their love to fulfillment would be improper behavior. Let them marry, says Paul. However, should there not be intense necessity, it is better under the circumstances of the day that they remain single (37-38).

To wrap up the whole subject of the chapter, Paul reminds them of God’s unchanging law concerning marriage. Marriage is for a lifetime and nothing shorter. There is no freedom under God, while the husband or wife lives, for there to be remarriage. Only when there is a death of one of the partners is there freedom to remarry. If the will of that person is joined to the will of the Lord, then let that one marry whom he or she will (39). Even in such a case, Paul comments, this person is better off to remain unmarried, due to the present distress. And, he adds, the Holy Spirit is inspiring him throughout this discourse (40).


Post a Comment