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Study No. 3        Marriage    

 

 BIBLICAL FOCUS:   1 Corinthians 7  

 

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NLT)    

 

1.THE DIFFICULTY  

 

This chapter is the longest 'essay' in Scripture on this vital issue.  We will be saved from dogmatism if we recognise that this discussion was precipitated by a letter from Corinth (v. 1) and that Paul was answering specific questions and not giving a general talk on marriage...and we don't know what those specific questions were!  

 

It seems that the difficulty arose because of a clash between two extreme views concerning marriage:-  

a)  The Case for Celibacy - those who advocated this were probably influenced by Greek philosophy that the body was essentially evil while the soul is pure.They were ascetics who claimed that, to be a good Christian, no provision must be made to fulfil the bodily desires.Their motto would probably have been, "Sex is dirty".  

b)   The Case for Marriage - The Christians with a Jewish background would have re-acted strongly against the above because marriage was so much part of O.T. thinking that the Jews had no word for 'bachelor'.  A godly life included marriage and children;barrenness was considered a curse from God. For them, the sin was in refusing to marry.  

 

The above conflict would have given rise to questions like...

*Are couples to continue sexual relations after conversion?

*Should the unmarried marry?

*Is divorce permitted to a Christian couple?

*Should former sexual relations continue when one partner becomes a Christian?

*May a Christian widow re-marry?  

 

2.THE DOCTRINE  

 

a)  The Purity of Marriage (vs. 1-9)  There is room for both celibacy and marriage.  What was wrong at Corinth were the extreme and unloving attitudes. The physical aspect of marriage is never condemned. On the contrary, some of the wisest marriage counselling is given in v.4. The happiest marriages are those characterised by complete liberty, few inhibitions and the absence of guilt. The 'sex is dirty' idea has ruined many marriages and is totally unbiblical.  

 

b)  The Permanence of Marriage. (vs. 10,11)  Apparently, in Corinth, new converts were leaving their partners and breaking up their homes. God's will is that everyone's marriage should be permanent.  

 

c)  The Power of Marriage.  (vs. 12-16)The conversion of a marriage partner should be a source of blessing, not grief.  What do you think is the meaning of 'sanctify' in v. 14? (v. 16 suggests that it is not conversion).  

 

d)  The Privilege of Celibacy.  (vs. 17-40)  God gives certain members of the Body of Christ the gift of celibacy (v. 7)  When it is seen to be a spiritual gift like those of chapter 12, it will be considered a privilege equal to the married state and having certain practical advantages (vs. 32-35) but no moral or spiritual advantages.  

 

3.THE DECISION  

 

a)  If you have the gift of celibacy, do not seek marriage but rather use your gift to God's glory (v. 8).If you do not have this gift, plan to marry because this is God's norm.  

b)  If you are getting married, be sure that your prospective partner is a Christian (see v. 39 - ...in the Lord").  

c)  If you are already married to an unbeliever, make any sacrifice to preserve the marriage (vs. 12-16).  Should the unbelieving partner terminate the marriage, the believing partner is no longer bound (v. 15).  

d)  If you want a happy marriage, do not neglect to provide for your partner's sexual needs (vs. 3-5).   NB:  v.26 is a crucial verse in the interpretation of this passage because we just do not know what the "impending disaster" was and it is this factor that encouraged Paul to advocate celibacy in that situation.        

 

HOMEWORK FOR NEXT WEEK...READ CHAPTERS 8, 9, 10        

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