1 Corinthians 7:8 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 25 secs

When to get Married and not to get Married


We have seen in the first five verses that Paul is dealing with a particular problem in Corinth, and that was the idea that had been brought into the church from the human viewpoint thinking of the culture around them that somehow celibacy had superior spiritual values than sexual intimacy in the context of marriage. This is not talking about celibacy outside of marriage, that was a given. This is about  the fact that they had picked up this erroneous idea and they were applying it within the context of marriage.

The problem is that we come to the Word of God with a certain amount of cultural baggage, called by the Bible worldliness or cosmic thinking, a lot of ideas about what makes a successful marriage, what marriage is all about, what family is all about, what parenting is all about, what child rearing is all about. As believers we have to be willing to honestly look at our own lives and our own thinking, to look at the background we have. Most people get their ideas of marriage from watching their parents and observing how their parents live and operate. But if the parents weren't truly applying the Word, and none of our parents actually did, there were always areas that were found wanting, we shape our ideas from our early childhood experiences, that is our model our frame of reference, and when we come to the Scriptures we have to honestly and objectively evaluate, not only that background but all the other ideas we have picked up along the way that may not be biblical. So we have to exchange that thinking, which is human viewpoint thinking and will never produce a successful Christian marriage—it may be a successful marriage but not a successful Christian marriage. That is, not the kind of marriage that is based on the precepts and principles of God's Word that in turn glorify God in the angelic conflict. As two believers in Christian marriage are truly growing and maturing in the spiritual life, applying the principles of Ephesians chapter five under the filling of the Holy Spirit, their marriage takes on the quality of Ephesians five and there is a corporate testimony to the grace of God that is in contrast to the failure that occurred in the garden of Eden.

In John 13:34, 35 we have the command to love one another, and that command is directed from believer to believer and so when two believers are united in marriage that is an overarching command for everything that goes on inside that marriage. It needs to be characterized by love for one another "as Christ loved the church." This is further developed in 1 John 3:16 NASB "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…." That demonstrates that a key element in love is not putting our own agenda, desires and wishes first but putting the other person first and doing that which is best for the other person. Whenever we use a word like "best" or "better" or "worse" or "worst" that implies a value judgment. Any time we have a value judgment we are operating on a scale of values and priorities, and where do those come from? For me to make a decision about what is best in the life of somebody else means that I have to be operating on an absolute scale of values from the Word of God or I will be making decisions based on a relative scale of values. Those are the only options. If we are operating on the Word of God then we have an objective basis for determining what is best for something else or someone else because it is not coming out of a self-absorbed, arrogant agenda. But as soon as we get out of fellowship and are not walking by the Spirit and applying the Word, then when we make value judgments based on what is better or what is worse, what is going to be determining that scale of values and those norms and standards is going to be a system that comes out of human viewpoint and a system that comes out of arrogance. So in order for love to operate there has to be maturity in the soul based on Bible doctrine were the norms and standards and the values in the soul are determined by divine viewpoint and not human viewpoint.

So the first overall command has to do with loving one another as Christ loved the church. The second commandment is in Ephesians 5:21 NASB "and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." So there is a mutual love and a mutual submissi0on to one another. In other words, there is cooperation and not competition. It is not one person's will versus the other person's will, but is the two people submitting their will to one another and ultimately submitting their will to that of Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then in 1 Corinthians 7:1-6, as we have seen, the husband and the wife are to be mutually involved in sexual intimacy. This is another general rule found in Scripture addressing both husband and wife. We have seen that the husband has a duty to the wife, the wife has a duty to the husband; the wife's body is under the authority of the husband and the husband's body is under the authority of the wife. So there is a mutual submission.

Both husband and wide are to love each other unconditionally and impersonally. This is a love that is based on virtue in the soul which comes from the standard of Jesus Christ and the character of God. The more we come to understand who Jesus Christ is and His character the more we will come to understand what real love is all about.

There is a set of commands to the husband. He is to love his wife as Christ loved the church—Ephesians 5:25. So the love that husbands are to have for wives is seen specifically by Paul as one application of the overall mandate of John 13:35, 25. The husband is commanded to honor his wife—1 Peter 3:7. This is from the Greek word TIME [timh] which is accurately translated "honor." What does it mean to give honor? To honor someone means to demonstrate respect for them. Husbands need to demonstrate respect for their wives, to value her as someone who is important, demonstrating that you hold her and her opinions and ideas in high regard. It means to admire someone, to give deference to someone, to respect them and to value them. The husband is to be the leader in the home in all areas, and primarily is the spiritual leader in the home. Husbands are to treat their wives with gentleness, kindness and respect. These are general attitudes and categories that reflect every area of life no matter what the situation may be. We all go through times in a marriage when there are conflicts, disagreements over one thing or another, but the general guideline in working out these problems or difficulties or conflicts are they should be governed by grace orientation demonstrated through gentleness, kindness, respect and humility. Further, Scripture teaches that husbands should be forgiving and not to be resentful or embittered toward their wives. They are not to harbour mental attitude sins or resentment for past behaviour or past failures.

Then the commands to wives. Wives are not commanded to love their husbands in Scripture. They are instead commanded to respect (often translated fear) their husbands. That is not fear in the sense of being afraid, it is the Greek word PHOBEO [fobew] which has the idea of respect in certain situations, such as with "the fear of the Lord." That doesn't mean we are to be afraid of God but we are to respect His authority and His role as the authority in our lives. Respect is a response term but it is no excuse to say that your husband isn't worthy of respect. These commands in Ephesians chapter five are not conditioned on the other person's behaviour. Furthermore, children are not told to honor parents when they deserve honor and respect, and in the same way wives are not told to respect their husbands and be submissive to their husbands when they are wise, godly, humble leaders. You don't have those kinds of conditions there because the ultimate model is always the unconditional love that Jesus Christ demonstrated on the cross. Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. Notice there is a correlation in Ephesians 5:22 between the authority orientation of the wife in the home and her authority orientation to her Lord. The Scriptures make it clear that one is a mirror of the other. How you respond to authority is a mirror of how you respond to the authority of God in your life. If you are the kind of person who constantly rebels against authority, has no respect for authority, then you are probably struggling with the authority of God in your life and the authority of Bible doctrine in your life. While this is a general principle, Paul makes an application of that to wives and says that they are to submit to their husbands in the same way that they are to submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in their spiritual life.

As such her submission to the husband is going to involve thoughtfulness, kindness and generosity. Notice both husband and wife are expected to deal with one another out of a frame of reference of grace orientation, humility, submission to one another; nevertheless there is a role structure and an authority structure within the home. As a consequence of sin men and women have different tendencies. These are outlined in Genesis three and the curse. We are told that women will have a desire to usurp control. One of the consequences of sin is that we all have problems with authority, and specifically women are going to have a general tendency, some more than others, toward wanting to run the home. This is often seen where women have had bad experiences with male leadership. So there is a mutuality in the marriage but there are role distinctions, and those role distinctions can only be achieved after salvation as part of sanctification and spiritual growth because they are reversing the trends of the sin nature that are outlined in Genesis chapter three. Just as women have a tendency to want to usurp authority in the home, there is a clear indication in the Scriptures that the tendency on the part of the male is to distance himself from his responsibility in the home. This is derived from the fact that in the curse men are told that from that point on they are going to still be working the land—they were to work the land before the fall but now there is going to be this antagonism and it is going to be by the sweat of their brow—and the responsibilities man had before the fall are the same after the fall, but now they become toilsome and burdensome. The tendency when anything is toilsome and burdensome is to not do it. So the tendency is for women to want to run the home and men to let them. Only as a result of sanctification under the filling of the Holy Spirit can those trends be reversed.

Then as a summary: In order for Christian marriage to be successful there needs to be genuine, honest communication between husband and wife. That means they have to spend some time together. There is tremendous pressure in our society to prevent men and women from spending time together and communicating.

In verses 6 & 7 of 1 Corinthians chapter seven Paul gives some reasons for not getting married. 1 Corinthians 7:6 NASB "But this I say by way of concession, not of command." There are some people who have taken the :this" to refer to the next verse, but actually it refers to what he says in verse 5 where he says: "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." He is talking about depriving of sex within marriage. The concession of verse 5 is expressed through that exception clause. But remember, what is happening in Corinth is: We are not going to have sex at all in marriage because that is going to make us more spiritual. Paul is going to make one concession, he is going to concede one point: If you are involved in prayer, then on that basis you can for a short period of time abstain from sexual relationships within marriage. Then he gives a further explanation in verse 7: "Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that." In this verse Paul is not commanding celibacy. He is simply articulating the principle that celibacy can be preferable simply because it allows the person who is single to devote more of his time and life to ministry in the local church and in fulfilling God's plan for his life. Paul here is simply expressing a general standard, he is not expressing a mandate to celibacy and being single. He recognizes this in the second part of the verse: "However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that." Everyone is different. The word here for gift is CHARISMATA [xarismata] which is the same word as used for spiritual gifts over in 1 Corinthians 12, but it is not using it in the sense of a spiritual gift here, it is simply recognizing that God has allowed some people to be able to live in a single state. Paul is not saying that a single is a better state in and of itself, he is not saying that being single has a higher spiritual value than  being married, he is simply saying that it allows the individual to do more in terms of service to the body of Christ than if he is married or has children. He is not denigrating being married or having children. Psalm 127:3-5 NASB "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate."

In this verse Paul is expressing that he has this gift and ability, he is not seeking a wife, he is not looking for companionship, and he is able to focus all of his energies on his ministry.  

1 Corinthians 7:8 NASB "But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I." This is a crucial verse for understanding what Paul is saying in the rest of this chapter. The term "unmarried" is the Greek word AGAMOS [a)gamoj]. The a at the beginning is the alpha privative which has the idea of "un" or "none," it is the prefix of negation. Here it refers to unmarried and includes those who are single as well as those who are divorced. The principle that Paul is laying down here is the principle of remaining in the status quo, remaining as you are. That is a governing idea of Paul's throughout this chapter, that you need to stay in whatever condition you are in. But that is not an absolute, it is a relative value. He is saying that in his opinion that is the best choice. [9] "But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn {with passion.}" So there is nothing wrong with getting married. If we look down at verse 26, "I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is," we will see that he is actually framing everything from verse 8 down to verse 28 with the same idea. He is emphasizing this principle of staying as you are, but under circumstances it is not wrong to change that, as in v. 28, "But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you." That is the same as he is saying in verses 8 and 9, that it is preferable to stay as you are but some of you can't do that and you need to remarry.