Paul tackles a lot of tough subjects in 1 Corinthians, which is why many churches and pastors tend to avoid teaching out of this book. However, while some of these topics may make people uncomfortable, they are extremely relevant for us today. Up to this point, Paul has addressed issues of disunity within the church, blatant sin by professing Christians and how such a person cannot remain in the church without repentance, and sexual immorality and God’s intended purposes for our bodies.
These were issues that Paul saw within the church at Corinth and were the top priorities to address. Now as we dive into 1 Corinthians 7, Paul begins to teach on topics that the Corinthians had written him about, asking for instruction and clarification. The first of these questions that Paul writes about is God’s design for marriage and that unique relationship.
“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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.”
~1 Corinthians 7:2-4
“To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”
~1 Corinthians 7:10-11
Marriage was God’s idea and is a beautiful gift from His hand. However, marriage should never be elevated above singleness. Paul makes this point very clear in 1 Corinthians 7, which we will dive into more in the coming week. Men and women can both serve the Lord and glorify Him as singles or married couples. There is no distinction or status of greater importance in God’s perspective.
With that being said, marriage is a beautiful gift, but one that God designed to be enjoyed in a specific manner. First, exclusivity is a cornerstone of God’s design. God intended it to be one man and one woman for life. Period. There is zero tolerance for divorce between believers as evidenced by Paul’s strong exhortation that those who separate should either be reconciled or remain separated, but should not divorce and remarry.
Later on in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul does allow for some tolerance for divorce between a believer and an unbeliever. But he also makes this exception clear in the fact that the separation should not be initiated by the believer. However, if the unbelieving spouse decides to divorce, the believing spouse is under no guilt for the separation and may remarry.
This reveals the second central value vital to marriage: it must be a selfless relationship. Like America, Corinth was steeped in a sexually driven society. Everything revolved around personal pleasure and what would make self happy. This mentality generated rampant immorality and permissive culture. Therefore, sexual immorality and other sins were common place even among the church. This is why Paul addressed these issues first before tackling the Corinthians questions.
In light of this background, what Paul shares in chapter seven regarding selfless interaction within the marriage goes contrary to what the Corinthians were used to. Paul makes it very clear that marriage is not about attaining personal gain or selfish pleasure, but all about selflessness that at times will require sacrifice. And this was God’s intended design. The marriage relationship is a reflection and mirror of our relationship with Christ. And for that reason, God clearly shows us that marriage must be selfless, exclusive, and committed to for life.
Therefore, as we navigate a sexually driven culture riddled with divorce and lack of commitment, may we take note and hold fast to God’s beautiful design for marriage and follow a different standard, loving and serving one another as Christ does His church so that the world may see a powerful picture and example of the gospel lived out through marriage.
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
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