““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.”
— 1 Corinthians 7:35
First of all, today’s message is rated PG-13. In CA two people can legally marry at a city hall and divorce anytime. When you google it with ‘divorce’, you can see an ad, “get a divorce online $139, easy cheap and fast solution. There is a divorce every 36 sec. The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years. By age 21, over 80% have had premarital sex. Having sex with someone is a full giving of oneself physically, emotionally, spiritually. It makes later relationships difficult to sustain. Study shows, infidelity rate has continually increased. Most women cheat for a better emotional connection when they are not content with their husbands. Usually men cheat for a single primary reason, sex. Americans are freer to marry than ever before, freer to divorce, freer to live together without getting married, freer to remain single. Same sex marriage is not uncommon. Young people are so confused with so many choices. Then what does the Bible say? God designed sex and marriage as a gift to bring an intimate unity between a man and a woman. The Bible begins with the 1st house church and ends with a wedding between Christ, and His bride, the church. Marriage is God’s blessing upon mankind to live a happy and fruitful life to produce godly offspring. Marriage was made for God’s glory. Marriage is patterned after Christ’s relationship to His redeemed people. Marriage is a sacred covenant with a commitment between a man and a woman before God. When we belong to Christ, we can not live in sexual sins. Heb13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” In Corinth Paul saw a great advantage of marriage to avoid sexual immorality. In today’s passage, Paul gives us practical teachings about marriage. It’s like a crash course. His point is to live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord whatever situations we’re in, single or married!
Look at v 1-6. “Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. 2 But since there is so much immorality each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The 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.6 I say this as a concession, not as a command.” Paul is dealing with the question the Corinthian church members had asked, “It is good for a man not to have a sexual relations with a woman.” Under the influence of Gnosticism, some thought that to live a holy life required renouncing sex and marriage. To correct this unhealthy view, Paul teaches that each man should have his own wife & each woman her own husband. Then he says, the husband and wife should fulfill their marital duty. Marriage is not for one spouse, but for mutual satisfaction. Marriage is not a place to stand up for our rights. Marriage is a decision to serve the other and God. Those who cannot let go of their selfishness are not ready to live with anybody and have troubled relationship. They should consider each other, for God created them differently. I have a Q for wives, do u know what ur husbands want? Respect. Husbands, do u know what ur wives want? Love. One person shared his story to have a happy marriage. He said that he better not control his wife, but understand and love her. He found that his wife loves cash. He gave her $100 green cash on and off although she had enough. She likes it. Husband must not demand his right, but sacrifice it and lays down his life for the good of his wife. Right? We can do so by imitating Jesus. In v5, with mutual consent, we also choose to devote ourselves to prayer for a while, but we must join together after that for a unity of love.
Now how about those who are unmarried? Look at v7-9. “I 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. 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.” Paul says, “I wish that all of you were as I am.” He’s convinced that they can serve God better than others as a single. But he points out, “those who cannot control their passion should marry.” Mother S. Barry, the co-founder of our ministry said, “I devoted myself fully to God’s work. God blessed me with many spiritual children I didn’t have time to marry.” Her spiritual children are spread all over the world. Praise God for her full devotion! What if does God give the same gift to some of our growing children? U never know! God’s glory may be revealed only.
How about those who are married. Look at v10, 11, “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.” There were some people in the Corinthian church who felt that being married was unholy. Maybe they wanted to separate from a spouse refusing to accept Jesus. They wanted to change their situation. Maybe there were more women in the church. Maybe they were not satisfied with their husbands. Paul gives wives Jesus’ command as a principle of marriage that they must not separate from their husbands once they married. Of course, there are rough moments in marriage. If separation happens, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. These are the only options for her. She must not remarry. There are more Jesus’ teachings about marriage, through which we understand Paul’s viewpoint better. Here we go! In Mt 5:32 Jesus says, “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” So all 3 end up committing adultery. Jesus says in Mt 19:9, “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Whoever married her who was divorced commits adultery too) Jesus says in Mk 10:11,12 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Jesus also says in Lk 16:18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” J. declares to those asking, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason in Mt 19, “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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” It reminds me of the book of Hosea where God showed His absolute love. By God’s will, Hosea married to an adulterous woman Gomer. When she committed adultery, God asked Hosea to not abandon her, but bring her back from her lover by paying ransom money. As a display of love and commitment, he goes the extra mile for her. This is God’s love! When we relied on His love, we overcome all excuses to love our spouse faithfully.
Let’s read v12-16. “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. 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?” Paul personally gives practical advices to those who have unbelieving spouses. I think that those mentioned here had married before becoming Christians. Still they must not divorce. It’s right to do their best to work it out. God regards their union as sanctified through the faith of the believing spouse. Their children will share in God’s blessing. There is a story. A husband was not a believer. But his wife prayed faithfully for him long time. God answered her prayer. He began to study the Bible and repented of his sins. His dramatic change influenced their son who also decided to follow Jesus. Thanks to her faith, both were sanctified and became disciples of Jesus. Likewise, there are many serving God wholeheartedly, even though their spouses do not share their faith. Remaining faithful to your marriage blesses your spouse and your children. *Paul says, “if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.” Sometimes, an unbelieving spouse can become the devil’s tool to destroy the faith of the believer. Despite their constant harassment, the believer should not ask for a divorce. If the unbeliever determines to leave, the believer should let them go by honoring their will. No one has control over others. Only God can help them out. But the believing spouse may wait as long as there is a possibility for the spouse to come back. When I was late twenties, my father wanted me to marry to a M.D. who was not a UBF member. But by the help of God’s servants, I married to m. Esther in UBF for campus and world mission. But I was tempted to leave my mission when I had hard time because of visa problem and my broken career. But God helped me to remind of my marriage vow. Thanks to my wife who has been faithful in Jesus, I was sanctified too. May the Lord help me to keep my marriage vow to serve God and to be faithful in His world mission calling in UBF. Amen.
Now let’s read v 17-24. “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. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 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.” Paul asked Christians to not try to change their status: marital status, circumcision, or slave. U name it! “When God called” is repeated 8 times. This calling is absolute calling when we were bought at a price & became free in Jesus. Christ is now the Lord over us and our place. We must accept God’s sovereignty and do our best to serve God as we are. Some single think they will be happy and serve God better if they marry. They ended up wasting so much time in daydreaming about marriage. Some married people may think that if they were single or if they had better spouse, they could serve God better. We may also look for a better job, better children, or better situations while God wants us to meet the challenges. Paul teaches us to accept our God-given place in life and serve God as we are. It is God’s wisdom. God is happy when we are content. You are single? You are married? No Pb! Be content!
Let’s read V25-35. “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. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 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. 29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 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; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. 32 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. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 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. 35 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.” Paul again encourages the unmarried to remain single, because there was a present crisis, the severe famine. But he clarifies that they have not sinned if they marry. But we should remember that the world in its present form is passing away. We must put all our hope in the Lord. We must do our best to prepare for his kingdom while living in this world, for it is the only one chance to do so. Paul also warned them about the danger of a divided heart among married believers. Marriage demands husbands and wives to be concerned about each other. There is a danger that their concern can become worldly. God designed a marriage for His holy mission. That is why woman was made as a helper suitable for a man to serve God’s mission together. Some people dream of an endless romance ignoring God’s desire to use the family for God. Others value family fun every weekend, ignoring God’s purpose. When the family becomes an end and a priority, it slowly loses its connection with Christ. Marriage and the family must not take our hearts away from God no matter how precious they are.
Let’s read kv35 all together. “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.” Paul is teaching us the good life, the happy life, the most fulfilling and rewarding life, which is to serve the Lord in undivided devotion. This is the right. When husband, wife, and single people love God with contentment whatever their situations, they are truly blessed and happy. This is an important principle we can apply to our lives. Then Satan cannot tempt us with sexual sin, for we are very much content in the Lord!
Let’s read V36-40. “If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own 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. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. 39 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. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” So far Paul really liked to encourage others to stay single. He says that unmarried state(virgin or widow) can be better because it offers a person more opportunity to serve God. As a matter of fact, Paul was qualified to say this, for he fully devote himself to the Lord and His world mission. Many people chose to live as single, not because they wanted to serve God fully, but because they want to enjoy their life to the maximum or pursue worldly wealth and success. They are not right before God. What really counts is to love the Lord with all our hearts & all our strength. In v 39, Paul reassures us of another principle, 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.
Conclusion. I have 2 questions. First, to singles Do you think that marriage will solve all your life problems, fulfilling all your dreams? It won’t because it can’t. It is not the ‘be all end all’ of life. 2nd, to those who are married already, what could be the real issue in marriage? No satisfaction! Changing our marital status doesn’t guarantee our happiness. Whatever situations we are in. Married or single, we can be content and love God wholeheartedly. May the Lord bless each of us here to be truly content in where we are, and live in a right way in God’s eyes. One Word: Undivided Devotion to the Lord