Updated 4 Oct 2019
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1 Corinthians 7
Paul continues to address the sexual area of life. He has spoken very clearly about immorality and inappropriate sexual behaviour but now he tackles the subjects of sex in marriage, faithfulness in marriage, the benefits of singleness and guidance for those considering marriage. The text indicates that this teaching is a result of questions that Paul has been asked to address. Consequently, it is most unfair to suggest that Paul might be obsessed by these matters. Rather, we see that he has the courage to face up to these issues and address them.
Sex in Marriage
Paul realises the power of sexual attraction and makes it clear that marriage is an appropriate way of expressing and fulfilling these desires. He explains that those who can resist these desires and not be controlled by them, are in the best place but marriage provides a legitimate outlet for these desires. As a married man, the husband has a responsibility to meet his wife’s sexual needs. Likewise, the wife has a responsibility to meet her husband’s sexual needs. Paul urges that neither husband nor wife should deprive each other but should understand that a key part of marriage is to channel and fulfil the sexual desires of each other. The sad reality is that, when this does not happen, one of the partners may look to someone outside of the marriage to meet those needs which are not satisfied within the marriage.
Paul suggests that a Christian couple may choose to abstain from sexual relations in order to spend more time in prayer. However, the unselfish attitude of giving oneself to one another must resume, because the devil is always looking for an opportunity to destroy a marriage with the temptations of lust and selfishness.
The Unmarried, Widows and Those with Unbelieving Partners
Paul encourages the unmarried and widows to abstain from a sexual life and hints that this is his own status. Perhaps Paul never married or, maybe, he was a widower. However, he instructs that, if they find the pressure is too great, it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
For those who are married to unbelieving partners, Paul encourages a man or woman to remain true to an unbelieving partner if that partner is willing to live together with the believer. Marriage promises must be kept. The believing partner who is faithful, sanctifies the marriage partner and the children if they have any. Perhaps some were looking for a way out of their marriages with unbelieving partners but Paul clearly exhorts that the sanctity of marriage comes first. However, if the unbeliever leaves, then that is solely their responsibility before God.
Paul points out that when Christ found us, we were in different situations - some were circumcised, some were slaves, some were married to unbelievers - and we should be content to remain in the situation to which God has called us. What matters is that Jesus found you, he loves you and he wants you to keep his commandments, always remembering the price that he paid to save you.
Singleness and Marriage
Paul’s exhortation is that people should not feel forced to marry but, rather, enjoy the benefits of being single without the responsibilities that marriage brings. You can be wholly devoted to the Lord if you have no need to be concerned for a husband or a wife. However, if a man and woman have mutual feelings and desires, it is good to marry and express those desires in marriage. Nevertheless, Paul speaks about controlling our emotions and not being driven by a sense of obligation. Rather, we should make prayerful, considered choices before God.
Marriage is for life but, when widowed, a woman is free to marry again, provided that it is to a believer. However, Paul says that another marriage should not be seen as a necessity and, in fact, advises that the widow will be happier if she remains a widow.
Points to Consider:
- How well do we apply the teaching of this chapter to preparing couples for marriage?
- The sexual side of marriage is clearly important. How do we encourage a healthy view of sex and a healthy spiritual life, where honouring the Lord is seen to be first and foremost.
- How does this chapter help us to support believers who have unsaved partners?
- How should we support and counsel widows who have questions in their hearts about the advisability of marrying again?
- How well do we encourage people to understand that being single is completely acceptable before God?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 7
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