1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7 is about communion, fellowship in marriage. Today walls of separation exist between husbands and wives in many marriages--with a definite lack of intimacy. It is dangerous for these walls to exist in marriage. Paul is answering questions they had previously written him about. Three basic questions were being answered by Paul here.

  1. What about marriage, should we remain married?
  2. What about singlehood, should we remain single?
  3. What about being married to a non-believer?

Another dynamic that was working in the Corinthian Church was that it was highly suspected the Jewish Christians were pushing all the Gentiles to marry. Jewish Christians and all the Jews believed that all should be married. This goes back to their application of Old Testament scriptures they followed, found in Genesis 2:24 which states "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh", and Genesis 9:1 which states, "So God blessed Noah and his sons and said to him, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth", and Genesis 24:60 which states, "And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: "Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of tenthousands; And may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them." In the Old Testament having a wife and bearing children was an important thing--a duty. Onan had refused to bear children for his dead brother's wife, Tamar, and God killed him for refusing to fulfill the duty of carrying on the family line (Genesis 38:1-10). In Genesis 25:1-2 it states, "Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimram, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah." Abraham, the chief father above Isaac and Israel, even got remarried after Sarah died and had six more sons! Israel had two wives, twelve sons and one daughter! The Jews saw this as a major Scriptural example of what we were placed here to do--marry and have children. This is not wrong, it is part of the scriptures. Over the centuries it became part of the Jewish psyche and culture, as it is to this very day. It is not wrong to feel this way, but as Paul brings out, it isn't everything.

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 Paul brings out that it can also be good for a person to remain single--but because of the sexual immorality all around you in Corinth, it's also good to be married. It's a natural thing for a man and woman to be married. God created man and woman and gave them a sex drive. Marriage is a safeguard against sexual immorality. Verses 1-2. "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband."

Verses 3-5, Now that you are in the marriage Paul says you need to protect each other from sexual immorality. You have this union, so don't deprive each other. Verses 3-5, "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer ["and fasting" NKJV]. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." Matthew 19:4-6. "'Haven't you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female [Gen. 2:24], and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'" Verse five shows the only reason to deprive each other from the marriage union in sex. You can't have oneness without this union. The marriage bed takes down the walls within the marriage and sets them around the marriage, protecting it. When the marriage bed is deprived the walls go up within the marriage and come down around the marriage. Paul warns against depriving the marriage bed. It's more than a physical thing.

Marriage in God's eyes is very important. Sex outside of marriage pollutes our spiritual union with Christ. I Corinthians 6:15. "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" John 14:23. "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." How does Jesus do this? John 14:15-17,20 gives the answer, "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you...On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." i.e. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God the Father dwell in us. The marriage bed protects this spiritual bond as well as the marriage itself. Immorality pollutes this spiritual bond we have with Christ.

Usually there are other issues which cause a man or woman to dishonor the marriage bed. In Ephesians 5:22-30 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 we see a total consistency between Paul's teaching and Peter's on the subject of marriage. Paul does not say these things based on cultural reasons. These principles are universal, for all times and cultures. These scriptures bring out two basic points. Add to them the third Paul brings out in 1 Corinthians 7, 'Don't deprive each other in the marriage bed' and you have the three basic points that lead to and bring about a healthy marriage.


Peter's and Paul's Recipe For A Good Marriage

Three basic points are brought out in the New Testament which lead to a happy marriage--just three. It sounds simplistic, but that's all there is. But if applied, these three points really do lead a couple to experience the joy of a happy marriage. Two of these three points are found in Ephesians 5:23-31 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, and one is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.

1) Men need to love their wives and show them they love them. [This refers to filling their emotional bank accounts! This one point involves a lot of understanding. Refer to the end of this expository study for further study material dealing with this point. This is the major fault men have which drives their women away.]

2) Women need to submit and obey their husbands.

3) Don't deprive each other in the marriage bed (1 Cor 7:3-5).

If we leave services today with the attitude that we are going to honor God by obeying his Word on these three points, you are on the road to a healthy marriage. Remember, you're not perfect, and neither is your spouse. To deny the marriage bed puts you on dangerous ground. My wife [the Pastor talking] has said to me, as so many women so often say to their husbands, "Get away from me! I don't want anything to do with you." It is one of the most common statements women make to their men--and it is part of the dangerous wall-building process that so often goes on between marriage partners. We have read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, the third point, now let's read Ephesians and I Peter and see the other two as Peter and Paul stated them.

Ephesians 5:23-31. "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'"

1 Peter 3:1-6,7. "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

That's the simple Bible formula for a happy marriage. It's what the Bible says. Sorry if you don't like it. I didn't write it. Nor did I inspire the writers who did.


Verses 6-9, Paul is saying it's good to be single like me, but if you're married, God probably wants you to be married. Part of that reason God may want you married comes out in verse 9. "I say this as a concession, not a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say; It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. [verses 6-9]"

The standard laid out by Paul in verses 10-11 comes actually from Jesus himself and was first stated in Matthew 19:3-9. It is addressed to married couples where both are believers, Christians. Verses 10-11, "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife." Paul got this command from the Lord as stated. Let's read what Jesus said on the same matter. Matthew 19:3-9. "Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?' 'Haven't you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.' 'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?' Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"

The Bible teaches that when you're married to another believer, you are married for life. You can separate if there is abuse. Separation is not good because Satan can get in and cause you or your spouse to sin. God's business is reconciliation. Verbal wounds are just as deadly as physical wounds. Be careful what you say to each other. If you feel like you are headed for separation, pray. Prayer is powerful. God loves prayer. God digs it when you pray in faith for your spouse. (Keep a prayer journal and see how much God does for you in answering your prayers over time.)

Verses 12-16 covers marriages between Christian believers and non-believers. Some fellowships have not honored the marriage between two believers because a non-believing mate has left the marriage and the other believing mate has remarried to a believer. What we will see here is that such a divorce and remarriage is scriptural and permitted. But Paul brings out rather emphatically that the believing mate is not to leave the non-believer if the non-believer is pleased to dwell with the believer. The emphasis, as seen in 1 Peter 3:1-7 is that a believing spouse's example may just save the non-believer, so that the non-believer becomes a Christian also. Paul brings out another important point here too. Not only is the non-believer sanctified because of the believing partner, but the children from this union are also sanctified. God has set both the non-believing mate and the children aside for conversion, should they so desire. The opportunity is wide open for them. And as Peter brings out, if the example of the believing spouse is good enough, the non-believing mate may just become a believer based on example alone. So the strong Bible emphasis is to stick with a marriage to a non-believer. Some marriages of this type have gone through separations of years, and because the non-believer saw changes in the life of the believer, came back into the marriage, and become converted also. In some other marriages of this type, upon conversion of one mate, the other wants out and to get as far away as possible from the believer. One is not bound in such cases. Verses 12-16, "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"

In verses 17-24 Paul brings out that we should remain where God has called us. "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should remain uncircumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let that trouble you--although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to."

Verses 25-40 are addressed to single people. Paul brings out the spiritual positives of remaining single and the spiritual negatives of being married. There are spiritual positives and negatives and Paul wants everyone to understand them. A positive for marriage is that you are protected from immorality in a highly immoral world, if you have a good marriage. Paul now brings out a spiritual negative to being married. Verses 25-40, "Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short [or so the apostles believed at the time this was written]. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away [they all believed Jesus's 2nd coming was imminent]. [But this applies now to us more than it ever did in Paul's day!]

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife--and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin--this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he does not marry her even better.

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is--and I think that I too have the Spirit of God."

[CLICK HERE to access a study dealing with filling women's emotional bank accounts and the differences between men and women.]

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