Paul’s Instructions Concerning Sex and Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7

imagesHere are my sermon notes from Sunday nights message dealing with Sex and Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.  Several people from the church have asked so I thought that I would post them here.

Paul’s Instructions Concerning Sex and Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7

To understand this passage you need to know that Paul is writing in response to some misunderstanding that his earlier letter has caused.  Back in chapter 5:9 Paul mentions that he had written an earlier letter to the Corinthians in which he told them not to “associate” with anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ but at the same time is involved in sexual immorality.  Basically what happened was that the Corinthians church became divided in their response to Paul’s instructions.
The Libertines – Paul dealt with this group in 6:12-19.  We looked at that passage last week and saw that the libertines were basically arguing that anything that they did with their bodies was okay because “All things were lawful for them.”  This may have been the result of their misunderstanding Paul when he said that as believers we are free from the Law.  Whatever the cause, Paul is clear that they were wrong and that underestimated the devastating results of sexual immorality.
The Legalists- In chapter 7 Paul deals with a second group of people whose motto was “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”  Basically, they were going to the opposite extreme of the libertines and were promoting complete celibacy among believers.  So Paul addresses this problem in the remainder of chapter 7.
What we need to remember anytime that we are studying Corinthians is that Paul is addressing immature believers who were prone to great extremes in their application of the gospel. The Corinthians were products of their culture and Paul is instructing them concerning how they should live out the gospel in the areas of their marriage and sexuality.
  1. Married couples should meet each other’s sexual needs (7:1-9)
    • Some people within the Corinthian church had apparently misinterpreted Paul’s earlier teaching to mean that they should not have sex.
      • They promoted total celibacy
      • They may also have gotten this idea from the Essenes who were also celibate.
      • But they had totally misunderstood what Paul’s point.
    • Paul recognized that there is a benefit to being single and that sometimes it can lead to a greater concentration on the things of God.
      • v.7 “I wish that all were as I myself am.”
      • v.26 “I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is.”
      • v.32-33 “I want you to be free from anxieties.  The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.  But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife.”
    • But he also recognizes that we are created with sexuality and that part of the purpose of marriage is to meet this basic human need (v.2-5)
      • Husbands and wives are not to deprive each other physically, except for short, special occasions.
      • This may have addressed the fact that many Roman marriages were virtually celibate:
        • Romans marriages were most of the time arranged for social and economic reasons rather than for romantic purposes.
        • Therefore, in many marriages the partners pursued their relationship as a business arrangement and sought sexual fulfillment outside of the marriage.
        • Paul obviously, refutes this practice and shows that married couples should meet each other’s sexual needs.
    • In marriage, sex should not be:
      • A reward for good behavior
      • A tool to manipulate your spouse
  2. Married couples should stay married (7:10-16)
    • Don’t let divorce be an option in your marriage (v.10)
      • Divorce was easy in Roman society
      • All either party needed to do was to publicly announce to their spouse to “take their things and go.”
    • Some in Corinth were divorcing their spouses because they were unbelievers.
      • Paul shows that this is contrary to the gospel.
      • V.14 does not say that they unbelieving spouse is saved by their believing husband or wife, but rather that they are made “holy”
        • The marriage is recognized as valid by God and is therefore Holy.
        • That means that we should treat it with reverence.
        • They might be saved by the testimony of their believing spouse.
        • 1 Peter 3:1 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey that word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”
    • Divorce and remarriage is only permissible in two instances:
      • Unbelieving spouse leaves (v.15)
      • Spouse commits adultery – And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
    • We could cut the number of divorces in America if we:
      • Gave kids better guidance in matters of dating and courtship
      • Took divorce more seriously in the church:
        • It’s prevention
        • It’s recovery
      • Started to model Biblical marriages
      • Took our vows a little more seriously – TIll death do us part (v.39)
  3. Married couples within the church need to allow that it is a valid option for some people to remain unmarried (7:36-38)
    • There is a tendency among some in the church to assume that the normal and natural thing for everyone to do is to get married.
      • Paul would argue that the majority of people within the church should be married.
      • But he does leave a life of celibate singleness as an option.
      • Throughout this passage, he actually commends the single life— as long as one can remain celibate.
        • v.7 “I wish that all were as I myself am.”
        • He gives two reasons:
          • Eschatological: v.25-28 explains that trouble of this age is the basis for this belief.
          • Practical: v.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.  But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife.”
    • As the church we need to be more balanced in what we teach about marriage:
      • We need to uphold the Biblical principles of marriage
      • We also need to uphold the value of being single.


Dealing With The Sunday Roller-Coaster That Every Pastor Rides

The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is...
The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is the world’s oldest continually-operating rollercoaster, built in 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those in the ministry Sunday can be an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster, filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, that combine to make the ride frightening, exhilarating, terrifying and joyous all at the same time.  Any Pastor who has been in the ministry knows exactly what I am talking about.  You get up on Sunday morning excited about what the Lord has in store and fired up to preach the Word that He has given you through the week.  But then the hot water in the shower won’t work, your wife yells at you because you forgot to pick up milk two nights before, and your kids stayed up too late last night and don’t want to get up.  You feel the anointing be drained from your soul but somehow you get yourself together and head for the church.  The parking lot is full and your excitement begins to grow, God is going to do something big.  You retreat to your study where you spend the Sunday School hour praying and preparing to preach.  Before you know it, it is time to head to the sanctuary.  Your feeling good.  The message is welling up in your heart and you just know that God is going to do something huge.  As you walk through the halls the Sunday School director stops you to tell you that a teacher did not show up and that they can’t find anyone to take the class for the next Sunday.  You go a little further and someone stops you to complain about the youth being too loud, or the worship service being too contemporary, or your sermon last week being too long.  Every Pastor reading these words, knows exactly what I am talking about.  Sometimes the walk from your office to the pulpit feels like running a gauntlet.  By the time the band starts playing and the worship begins you are fighting just to regain your joy.  And this is just the morning service— you have a full day of this ahead of you.  Up, down, round and round, spinning you, jostling you, until you are just glad to get home on Sunday night.

The Sunday roller-coaster of emotion that every Pastor goes through is a combination of Satanic attack, congregational ignorance, and our own emotional instability.  From a spiritual standpoint we have to understand that Sunday is a war zone for Pastors.  The one thing that you can count on is that Satan and his minions are going to show up on Sunday morning to attack you.  Your members, leaders, and deacons may take a Sunday off, but Satan never does.  He is going to do everything that he can do to discourage, distract, disorient, and destroy you on Sunday morning.  As a Pastor you have to be aware that the attack is going to come and prepare by equipping yourself with the full armor of God.  In addition, let me recommend that you gather together a handful of your most trusted prayer warriors who will be your own personal spiritual body guards on Sunday by praying for you throughout the day.

Second, you have to realize that the congregation is largely ignorant of what we go through on a Sunday morning.  They don’t realize the intensity of the day and the spiritual struggle that is going on within your own heart as you wage battle against the forces of darkness.  We can help our churches by talking about this more often but no one outside of the ministry will ever fully understand the battle that happens on Sunday morning.  What we can do is to encourage our members to hold off talking to us about problems until after the service or even better yet, to simply make an appointment to come by during the week.  We can also do ourselves a favor by getting some of the spiritual leaders of the church to walk with us through the halls as we travel to the sanctuary.  This way when someone wants to discuss a matter, we can politely hand off the situation to another staff member, elder, or deacon.

Finally, we need to remember that in many ways we are our own worst enemies.  As Pastors we have to admit that we can be emotional basket cases on Sunday morning.  My recommendation to any Pastor who gets upset on a Sunday and feels like blowing up or venting their frustration is to go home, sleep on it, then get up and pray about,  give it a day or two to get some perspective.  Don’t just blow a fuse.  You will feel better right after you blow up, but eventually you look around and realize that you just blew up your own ministry.