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.


The Significance of Jesus’ Return

You will remember that this entire discourse on the Second coming was begun in Matthew 24:3 when Jesus’ disciples asked about the timing of the second coming.  Throughout these two


Second Coming Jesus 16


chapters, Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus has been emphasizing that the timing of His return is not the most important issue.  Far more important than understanding when Jesus will return is the need to understand the significance of His return and to be adequately prepared for when it occurs.  In this post I want to show you




1. At His Return Jesus Will Be Revealed in All of His Glory (v.31)  The word “glory” refers to Jesus splendor, might, and wort




In the OT there are 25 Hebrews words that are translated by this single Greek word “doxa.”  Briefly these words can be used to refer to:


  • Wealth = Genesis 45:13 Joseph tells his brothers to tell their father about all of his splendor – referring to the wealth and material blessings he has acquired in Egypt.
  • Armies = Sometimes a Kings armies were referred to as his glory, for instance in Isaiah 8:7 the Bible talks about the King of Assyria in “all of his glory.”Armies represented power in those days.So in this instance, the word glory is used to refer to Assyria’s army and its enormous military power.
  • Population = Another measure of a King’s success is the size of his country.  Therefore, Proverbs 14:28 “In a multitude of people is the glory of the King…”


All of these idea and more are captured in the use of the word glory here in Matthew 25.  But for our purposes we need to see what the Bible has to say about the glory of Jesus.  What we find in the Bible is that the glory of Christ is displayed in every phase of his ministry


Pre-incarnation –  Jesus shared the full glory of God.


  • John 17:5 “And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
  • 2 Corinthians 8:9 ” For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. “


Incarnation– after Jesus came to earth He continued to reveal the glory of God.


  • John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. “
  • The primary ways that Jesus accomplished was by:
  • By Declaring the truth about God – John 1:18 “ No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. “
  • By Accomplishing the work that God the Father sent Him to do- John 17:4-5 “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “
  • By His death on the cross- Philippians 2:5-8 ” Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”


After Ascension– in Jesus exalted state in heaven He continues to glorify God


  • John 14:12-14 “  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. “


Return– at His return Jesus will be revealed in all of His glory. 


  • Daniel 7:13-14 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
  • That which had been veiled in mystery and the incarnation in the past, will be fully revealed and made visible someday in the future




2.  At His Return Jesus Will Sort Everyone Into Two Groups (v.32-33) 


The Scope of this judgement




  All of the nations are going to be gathered before Him


  • The judgement of Christ is universal in its scope: 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. “
  • The question is not will I stand before God, but when will I stand before God
  • The even bigger question is not ” will I stand before God,” but “what will happen when I do?”




The decisiveness of this judgement v.32b. “and he will separate people one from another.”


  • The word “separate” here carries with it the idea of sorting and separating one thing from another.
  • In this case the “separation” involves the separating of all of the people who make up the “nations” or ethic groups of the world into two categories: Sheep – representing the save or Goats – representing the unsaved
  • There is no confusion here — sheep and goats are clearly different animals and one is not mistaken for another. This points us to the fact that Jesus is decisive in making a distinction between the peoples of the earth.
  • This is decisive:- You are either saved or your lost.  You have either been made righteous through faith in the gospel or you have not.  You are either in or you are out! There is no third option, no third category, no alternate plan— the judgement seat of Christ is decisive and clear.
  • The only question is, which one are you?  But before you make a choice, let’s look at what happens to each group.




3. At His Return Jesus Will Judge the Unrighteous and Reward the Righteous (v. 33-46) 




Once again, notice the two groups that are talked about here:




v.34-40 tells us about the Sheep, or the righteous.


  • These are the ones who have turned away from their sin and trusted Christ as their savior.
  • As a result they have been declared righteous by God and their actions reflect the condition of their hearts.
    • When they see someone in need (thirsty, naked, sick, or lonely) they reach out with love and compassion to minister.
    • Their actions do not make them right with God but instead flow out of a life that has been redeemed by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Notice that this group is rewarded:
    • v.33 Seated at the right hand of God
    • v.34 Given the Kingdom as an inheritance
      • notice the wording here — he doesn’t just give a place in the Kingdom, or a piece of the Kingdom, HE GIVES US THE KINGDOM.
      • This is what Paul means when he refers to us a “co-heirs” with Christ.
      • Everything that is encompassed by the concept of the Kingdom is given to you as an inheritance when Jesus comes back.


v.41-46 Jesus turns His attention to those on His left hand — the goats.


  • Everyone who has ever lived but not turned from sin and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior is included in this group.
    • Their sin has never been dealt with and their actions demonstrate their unrighteousness:
    • They see the same suffering and problems in the world but don’t do anything about it.
    • Core of the problem is that they are selfish and shortsighted.
  • When Jesus returns the unrighteous will be punished. (v.41-46)
    • Separated from God
    • – v.41 “Depart from me”
      • This is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a person because we are created in the Image of God.
      • We were created for the purpose of knowing God and enjoying His presence.
      • Being cast out of God’s presence for eternity is the worst possible scenario for anyone.
      • It represents the loss of all hope, all purpose, all meaning,
    • Punished for Eternity – v.41b and v.46
      • The unrighteous will be treated to the same fate as the devil and his angels.
      • The BIble is clear that Hell is a real place and that people who go there will:
        • Be conscious
        • Be punished
        • Be hopeless