1 Corinthians 7:1-24 (NIV)
Concerning Married Life
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.
For pleasure. For comfort. For procreation. For hello and goodbye. For joy.
3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The principle in this passage is important. God makes it clear that there is nothing wrong, and everything right, about sex in marriage. Satan’s great strategy, when it comes to sex, is to do everything he can to encourage sex outside of marriage, and to discourage sex within marriage. It is an equal victory for Satan if he accomplishes either plan!
This can be seen in the way some of the Corinthian Christians thought it was just fine to hire the services of a prostitute (as in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), and other Corinthian Christians thought it was more spiritual for a husband and wife to never have sexual relations!
A Christian husband and wife must not accept a poor sexual relationship. The problems may not be easily overcome, or quickly solved, but God wants every Christian marriage to enjoy a sexual relationship that is a genuine blessing, instead of a burden or a curse.
“So she thoroughly taught him that one cannot take pleasure without giving pleasure, and that every gesture, every caress, every touch, every glance, every last bit of the body has its secret, which brings happiness to the person who knows how to wake it. She taught him that after a celebration of love the lovers should not part without admiring each other, without being conquered or having conquered, so that neither is bleak or glutted or has the bad feeling of being used or misused.”
—Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Yet I know married people who long to have the freedom of singleness again, and single people who weep at night in loneliness, aching for a spouse. So sad! In their longing for something different, they lose the joy of the moment God is giving them. Here is an opportunity to trust God in all things! (And I say that as one who has lived my adult years about 2/3 married and 1/3 single).
8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Was there a Mrs. Paul (and did she -ha!- sell fish)?
Though Paul was unmarried when he wrote this letter, he probably had been married at one time. We can say this because we know Paul was an extremely observant Jew, and an example among his people (Philippians 3:4-6). In Paul’s day, Jews considered that marriage was a duty, to the extent that a man reaching 20 years of age without having been married was considered to have sinned. Unmarried men were often considered excluded from heaven, and not real men at all. This was based on their understanding of Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
Also, by Paul’s own words, it is likely that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin (in Acts 26:10, Paul says I cast my vote against them, speaking of the early Christians). An unmarried man could not be a member of the Sanhedrin.
So, what happened to Paul’s wife? The Scriptures are silent. Perhaps she left him when he became a Christian, or perhaps she died some time before or after he became a Christian. But we know that it was likely he was married before, and we know he was not married when writing this letter (and there is no appearance of a wife for Paul in Acts). Paul could speak credibly of the relative gifts and responsibilities of both marriage and singleness.
Though Paul knew singleness was good for him, he would not impose it on anyone. The important thing is what gift one has from God, either being gifted to singleness or marriage.
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12 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. 13 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. 14 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.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
My pastor counseled me that there are two specific, Scriptural grounds for divorce: when there is sexual immorality (Matthew 19:3-9), and when a believing partner is deserted by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15). Does this mean there can never be divorce for another reason? Willingly I confess that I am no expert here. I encourage anyone with marriage problems to read the Word carefully and prayerfully, and to seek advice from godly counselors.
Concerning Change of Status
17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
Single, engaged, married, divorced, remarried, widowed — live as you are NOW for Christ! Don’t waste your time trying to undo the past; if there is sin there, repent, confess, receive forgiveness, and move forward, “keeping God’s commands” NOW. And day by day, the Lord will bless you.
21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
We can seek God’s best and be used by Him right where we are.
HERE is “Love Changes Everything” performed by Sarah Brightman. For David.