Instruction for Married and Single People (Day 11)

Read 1 Corinthians 7:1-40
   The Corinthians had written to Paul, asking him several questions relating to the Christian life and problems in the church. The first question was whether it was good to be married. Paul answers this and other questions in the remainder of 1 Corinthians. 
Spiritually, our bodies belong to God when we become Christians because Jesus Christ bought us by paying the price to release us from sin. Physically, our bodies belong to our spouses because God designed marriage so that, through the union of husband and wife, the two become one (Genesis 2). Paul stressed complete equality in sexual relationships. Neither male nor female should seek dominance or autonomy. 
   Sexual temptations are difficult to withstand because they appeal to the normal and natural desires that God has given us. Marriage provides God’s way to satisfy these natural sexual desires and to strengthen the partners against temptation. Married couples have the responsibility to care for each other; therefore, husbands and wives should not withhold themselves sexually from one another but should fulfill each other’s needs and desires.
   Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. One is not morally better than the other, and both are valuable to accomplishing God’s purposes. It is important for us, therefore, to accept our present situation. When Paul said he wished that all people were like him, unmarried, he was expressing his desire that more people would devote themselves completely to the ministry without the added concerns of a spouse and family, as he had done. He was not criticizing marriage: after all, it is God’s created way of providing companionship and populating the earth. 
   Sexual pressure is not the best motive for getting married, but it is better to marry the right person than to burn with lust. Many new believers in Corinth thought that all sex was wrong, and so engaged couples were deciding not to get married. In this chapter, Paul was telling couples who wanted to marry that they should not frustrate their normal sexual drives by avoiding marriage. This does not mean, however, that people who have trouble controlling themselves should marry the first person that comes along. It is better to deal with the pressure of desire than to deal with an unhappy marriage. 
   The Corinthian church was in turmoil because of the immorality of the culture around them. Some Greeks, in rejecting immorality, rejected sex and marriage altogether. The Corinthian Christians wondered if this was what they should do also, so they asked Paul several questions: “Because sex is perverted, shouldn’t we also abstain in marriage?” “If my spouse is unsaved, should I seek a divorce?” “Should unmarried people and widows remain unmarried?” Paul answered many of these questions by saying, “For now, stay put. Be content in the situation where God has placed you. If you’re married, don’t seek to be single. If you’re single, don’t seek to be married. Live God’s way, one day at a time, and He will show you what to do.” 
   Paul’s command about the permanence of marriage comes from the Old Testament (Genesis 2) and from Jesus (Mark 10). His suggestion in verse 12 is based on God’s command, and Paul applies it to the situation the Corinthians were facing. Paul ranked the command above the suggestion because one is an eternal principle while the other is specific application. Nevertheless, for people in similar situations, Paul’s suggestion is the best advice they will get. Paul was a man of God, an apostle, and he had the mind of Christ. 
The blessings that flow to believers don’t stop there extend to others. God regards the marriage as set apart for His use by the presence of one Christian spouse. The other does not receive salvation automatically but is blessed by this relationship. The children of such a marriage have a godly influence and are set apart until they are old enough to make their own decision for Christ. 
   Because of their desire to serve Christ, some people in the Corinthian church thought they ought to divorce their pagan spouses and marry Christians. But Paul affirmed the marriage commitment. God’s ideal is for husbands and wives to stay together: even when one spouse is not a believer. The Christian spouse should try to win the other to Christ. It would be easy to rationalize leaving; however, Paul makes a strong case for staying with the unbelieving spouse and being a positive influence on the marriage. Paul, like Jesus, believed that marriage is permanent (Mark 10). 
   Verses 15 and 16 are misused by some as a loophole to get out of marriage. But Paul’s statements were given to encourage the Christian spouse to try to get along with the unbeliever and make the marriage work. If, however, the unbelieving spouse insists on leaving, Paul said to let him or her go. The only alternative would be for the Christian to deny his or her faith to preserve the marriage, and that would be worse than dissolving the marriage. Paul’s chief purpose was to urge the married couples to seek unity, not separation (1 Peter 3). 
   Many people naively think that marriage will solve all their problems. Here are some problems marriage won’t solve: 1) loneliness, 2) sexual temptation, 3) one’s deepest emotional needs, 4) life’s difficulties. Marriage alone does not hold two people together but commitment does; commitment to Christ and to each other despite conflicts and problems. As wonderful as it is, marriage does not automatically solve every problem. Whether married or single, we must be content with our situation and focus on Christ, not on loved ones, to help address our problems. 
   Apparently the Corinthians were ready to make wholesale changes without thinking through the ramifications. Paul was writing to say that people should be Christians where they are. You can do God’s work and demonstrate your faith anywhere. If you became a Christian after marriage, and your spouse is not a believer, remember that you don’t have to be married to a Christian to live for Christ. Don’t assume that you are in the wrong place or stuck with the wrong person. You may be just where God wants you. You may be the instrument God has chosen to bring your spouse to trust Christ as their Savior. 
   We may become so concerned about what we could be doing for God somewhere else that we miss great opportunities right where we are. Paul says that when you become a Christian, you should continue on with the work you have previously been doing; provided it isn’t immoral or unethical. Every job can become Christian work when you realize that it can be an opportunity to honor, serve, and speak out for Christ. Because God has placed you where you are, take advantage of every opportunity to serve Him there. 
   Slavery was common throughout the Roman Empire. Some Christians in the Corinthian church were undoubtedly slaves. Paul said that although they were slaves to other human beings, they were free from the power of sin in their lives. People today are slaves to sin until they commit their lives to Christ, who alone can conquer sin’s power. Sin, pride, and fear no longer have any claim over us, just as a slave owner no longer has power over the slaves he has sold. The Bible says we become Christ’s slaves when we become Christians (Romans 6), but this actually means we gain our freedom, because sin no longer controls us. 
   Paul probably foresaw the impending persecution that the Roman government would soon bring upon Christians. He gave this practical advice because being unmarried would mean less suffering and more freedom to throw one’s life into the cause of Christ, even to the point of fearlessly dying for Him. Paul’s advice reveals his single-minded devotion to spreading the Gospel. 
   Paul urges believers not to regard marriage, home, or financial security as the ultimate goals of life. As much as possible, we should live unhindered by the cares of this world, not getting involved with burdensome mortgages, budgets, investments, or debts that might keep us from doing God’s work. A married man or woman, as Paul points out, must take care of earthly responsibilities but make every effort to keep them modest and manageable. 
   Paul urges all believers to make the most of their time before Christ’s return. Every person in every generation should have this sense of urgency about telling the Gospel to others. Life is short; there’s not much time. 
   Some single people feel tremendous pressure to be married. They think their lives can be complete only with a spouse. But Paul underlines one advantage of being single: the potential of a greater focus on Christ and His work. If you are unmarried, use your special opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly. 
   When Paul says the unmarried person does even better, he is talking about the potential time available for service to God. The single person does not have the responsibility of caring for a spouse and raising a family. Singleness, however, does not ensure service to God; involvement in service depends on the commitment of the individual. Paul’s advice comes from the Holy Spirit, who guides and equips both single and married people to fulfill their roles.