1 Corinthians 7:1-28 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine. And we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
All right, did you bring one of these? I always ask you that. It's good to have one. Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians chapter 7, 1 Corinthians chapter 7-- a longer chapter than before, so we buckle our seatbelts. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church for two reasons.
First reason, the Corinthians got snitched on by a person named Chloe. Paul heard from Chloe's household that there were divisions in the church. Paul found out about the divisions through that household. We're not sure if Chloe was a male or a female. I know it sounds like a female name these days, but not necessarily so in antiquity. But the household of Chloe told Paul that there were issues in the church. That was factor number one.
Second factor is, Paul was getting mail from Corinth, the church itself, asking him a series of questions. And so beginning in chapter 7, Paul goes on to answer those questions. You'll notice it says in verse 1 of chapter 7, "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me."
So they wrote Paul a series of questions that they didn't have answers for. They were a growing church facing problems, facing challenges. One was issues of marriage and divorce. And they didn't have clear teaching from the Lord, from the Lord Jesus about that.
Maybe they knew what was written in the Gospels that Jesus said about that. But they had some very particular issues about celibacy, singleness, about marriage, about divorce, about remarriage. And so Paul answers that question in the seventh chapter.
They had questions about personal liberty, what they can and cannot do, what they are free or not free to do. In particular, can we eat hamburger that has been sacrificed to an idol down the street. Can we have a nice double cheeseburger from that pagan temple. They serve the best cheeseburgers in town, but it was at a pagan temple.
Is that lawful or not? Because there really is only one God anyway. Those gods are false gods. So they had an issue about personal liberty, and that in particular. So Paul addresses the area of personal liberty that included in chapters 8, 9, 10, and partly 11.
Then they had questions about church order, the exercise of gifts within the body of Christ, within the public assemblies. He addresses that in chapters 11, 12, 13, 14. And then, finally, they had a question, doctrinal questions, in particular about the resurrection, the physical resurrection, what their body will be like when the Lord comes back and they are resurrected.
What will that be like? And that is answered in the lengthy behemoth chapter of chapter 15. Those 58 verses are dedicated to Paul answering that question. Chapter 16 is sort of an epilogue, he ends the letter.
So the first part, Paul deals with the issues that he had heard about. And chapter 7 to the rest of the book, he deals now with questions in particular that they had about all those things that I just mentioned. When Paul closed chapter 6, he ended with a phrase that is a phrase I think should be written above chapter 7, because it really is the general principle that he works with.
So you'll notice at the end of chapter 6 in verse 19, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have from God, and you are not your own. For you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
You could lift out that phrase out of verse 20, glorify God in your body, and put that over chapter 7. Now, Paul tells you how to glorify God in your physical body in terms of relationships that God has established with marriage, glorifying God in your body. He's going to deal with issues we all face, relational issues, relationships.
Relationships really are the essence of life. I think if you boiled life down to its irreducible minimum, you would have relationships. Strip away all the things you own, all the degrees you've worked for, all the beauty you strive after. When you get right down to the very basic things of life, it's your relationship with God, which is either good or bad, existent or nonexistent; and it's a relationship with people, good or bad, nonexistent or existent.
So if you boil life down to its irreducible minimum, you have a perfect axis, a vertical and a horizontal axis, relationship with God, relationship with people. Paul tells you how to have good relationships with people that you might glorify God in heaven with your body.
It seems that relationships, because they are the basics of life, have the capacity for either immense satisfaction or deep agony, and everything in between. Relationships between men and women solve many problems we have. But they also create problems we didn't have. And Paul will address some of those in this chapter.
As we get into it, you might want to purpose to compare what Paul says about marriage, divorce, singleness, just with your own life and your own measure of glorifying God in your body. Most people fall in love, or they find somebody and they call it falling in love, or they grow in love, whatever it might be. That is the typical pattern.
But, generally, we fall in love with a personality. But then we have to live with a character, and sometimes, quite a character. But it is true. It is important that we seek to discern beyond the level of outward personality what kind of character traits the other person has, because you're being committed to that. You're going to live with that for a long time.
So chapter 7 verse 1, "Now, concerning the things of which you wrote to me," and he comes right out of the chute head on with the first one. "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." Now, he doesn't mean like go up and touch somebody like that.
The idea behind this, metaphorically, is, it is good to be single. It is good to be celibate. It's good to refrain from sexual relations altogether, as Paul will say he has done. That's his calling. So he says, in essence, in verse 1 he's saying, look, celibacy, singleness, is good. It's good, but it's not the only good.
Because God in Genesis 2 said, it is not good that man should be alone. So based on that principle in Genesis 2, the principle of first mention, it is not good the man should be alone. God established the relationship of marriage, and looked upon it, and said, that is very good.
But Paul would here take the flip side and say, though God did say that, it is also good-- it's not bad. It's not evil. You're not wrong if you remain single. It's not the norm, but it's not evil, either. And it's important to say that. Because sometimes, especially in Christian circles, especially in evangelical Christian circles, if you don't get married right away, people think, what's wrong with you?
What, do you have bad breath all the time, or you have bad habits? Nobody wants to hang out with you. What is the deal, as if it's a curse. It can be, but it can also be a blessing. And so Paul says, it's good. That lifestyle is a good lifestyle.
I think Paul began this chapter this way because he's going to go from singleness to marriage, to divorce, and implied within divorce is also remarriage. Also, Paul was Jewish. And being Jewish, he came from a very strict background that held marriage in such high regard and disparaged a single lifestyle.
I don't know if you know that or not, but Judaism disparaged singleness. The Jewish rabbis had us saying that there are seven Jews who will not go to heaven. And they had a little list. And number one on the list is a man who has no wife. And number two, a wife, a woman who produces no children. So they laid some pretty heavy trips on people in their tradition saying, if you don't get married, you're not going to even go to heaven.
So to separate himself from that traditional ideology, it's important that this Jewish rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, Paul the apostle, begins by saying, nothing wrong with singleness, nothing wrong with celibacy. It is good for a man not to touch a woman. It's good.
It's good, but now he's going to say, it's also hard. Nothing wrong with it, but it's hard to actually do. And here's what he says, nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
It's good to be single, but it's also hard. And because it's hard, because you face sensual, sexual, physical temptations, it's better to get married. Now, somebody is going to hear that and go, well, that's a horrible idea or foundation for a marriage. You're right. It is a horrible foundation for a marriage. Paul is not laying the foundation of marriage here in this verse.
He is simply stating what is the norm. The norm is, it is not good that man should be alone. The norm is that people get involved in a heterosexual marriage that was ordained by God from the beginning. That is normal. It's normal, because very few people have the ability to remain single successfully.
Because what Paul will say is singleness is good, but only singleness with celibacy is good, not singleness sleeping around with other people. That's called fornication in the. Bible that's just an out and out sin. So singleness with celibacy is good. "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each husband have her own husband."
Both are gifts, as we will see. It is a gift from God if you can stay single and celibate throughout a lifetime and keep any temptation at bay, that's a gift. I don't have that gift. I knew I didn't have that gift a long time ago. And when I married Lenya, that was the answer to the dilemma that I was alone. It is not good that Skip should be alone.
The problem is not singleness. The problem is being married and acting like your single, or being single and acting like you're married. Both of those are problematic. But being single is a gift. Being married is also a gift from God. So verse 3, he now expands on it. "Let the husband render to his wife the affection," that is the physical affection, "That is due her. And, likewise, also the wife to her husband."
So the physical, intimate relationship within a marriage, the conjugal relationship is a privilege. It is a joy. It is a pleasure. But it is also a responsibility. We are in this relationship to please one another. The wife does not, verse 4, have authority over her own body.
All the secular feminists love this verse. Just kidding, not. The wife does not have authority over her own body. They're always saying, my body, my choice. Paul said, your body, his choice. And you say, well, that's sexist. Keep reading. "And, likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body." It's reciprocal. It's not one way. "But the wife does."
We can't be sure, but some scholars believe, they guess, that in Corinth, in the Corinthian church, there were certain people who were married, but believed that acting single within a marriage was somehow holy, refraining from sexual relations within the marriage was somehow, like a hermit while you're in a marriage relationship, was somehow holier than if you just enjoyed the marriage relationship.
That's weird. That's wacky. That's not spiritual at all. In fact, it is setting your spouse up for temptation, as Paul will tell us. And so what he does is he basically gives us three parameters for any withholding of sexual intimacy with our spouse.
And this is what they are. In verse 5, "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self control." Those are the three parameters.
There has to be a mutual consent. Let's sit down and talk about this. Let's refrain from intimacy, number one. Number two, let's agree beforehand on the time frame of that, when it's going to begin, when it's going to end. And number three, the reason isn't because, I'm mad at you. The reason is because we're going to give ourselves to prayer and fasting.
Now, prayer is something we should always do. Fasting is something that we might do occasionally for certain reasons. But fasting, typically, a person fast a few days, doesn't fast months at a time. We call those people dead if they do.
So it's something that you do for a short period of time. So the idea, the understanding, the context, this is something that a husband and wife would agree on in advance for spiritual reasons. They would have a joint agreement. They would come together and here's why, verse 5. "And come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self control."
You don't own you. You gave your life to her at the altar. You gave your life to him at the altar. Your body belongs to your spouse. And you are there to serve your spouse. I am there to serve my wife, to be sensitive to her, and vice versa. It's something that we agree on.
Sex is never a weapon to fight with. It's a tool to build with. Some couples make it almost a cudgel, something they're going to cudgel their spouse with. You said that, so you're not going to see me in bed for a week or two. That's totally unscriptural. He said, "Lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment."
This whole thing of being married or being single is going to depend on the gift and calling God has given you. I say this as a concession. And the idea of holding off for a period of time to pray and fast, that's just a concession, not a commandment. You don't have to do it.
"For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and the other in that." Now, this brings up an issue that people ask. And that is, was Paul the apostle married? Was Paul the apostle ever married? Some say no, some say yes. Some say yes because they believe he was part of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Because in the book of Acts it seems like he cast an official vote like a Sanhedrin member would, one of the 70 ruling elders would. If you were a member of the Sanhedrin, indeed, if Paul had been a member of the Sanhedrin, he would have had to have been married. That was a stipulation. To serve in the Ministry of the Sanhedrin, you had to have a wife.
But we're not sure that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. But even if he was, let's suppose he was, it must have meant that his wife died and he's no longer married, or that his wife wanted nothing to do with Christ. But she has never mentioned. So you can't really get dogmatic and say that Paul was once married, because there's never a record that he was, or that he was, for that matter, a member of the Sanhedrin. So you can do whatever you want with that.
He is, at this point, single. And he makes the statement, "I wish that all men were even as myself," that is single and celibate. And he's going to explain himself as to why. "But each one has his own gift from God." And I want you to see that word that's very, very important.
You can't do either without a gift. You can't stay single successfully unless God gives you a gift to do that. You can't stay married successfully unless God also gives you that gift and that calling. If you would, turn with me to the book of Matthew, chapter 19. It is one of the places where Jesus talks about marriage, and Paul is going to make reference to that here in chapter 7.
There are a couple of places the Lord Jesus spoke about marriage. One is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapter 5. He said, "You have heard from those of old times that a man can write his wife a certificate of divorce. I say unto you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except for adultery or sexual immorality commits adultery." And so he kind of hammers it hard there.
In chapter 19, though, is a conversation. "It came to pass when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed him there, and he healed them. And the Pharisees came to him, testing him and saying to him, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?"
Why would they ask a question like that? Hey, can a guy dump his wife just for any reason? Because there were interpreters who thought you could divorce your wife for absolutely any reason. There were two schools of thought in Judaism at the time, one very strict, one very liberal.
The strict school said, the only reason a man can divorce his wife is that if she is sexually immoral. If she sleeps with another man, that's the only reason. Another said, well, you know Moses talked about an uncleanness that the wife has. And maybe that means she cooked his dinner wrong. And he finds that unclean to him. And he deems that as an uncleanness.
And he broadened the reasons for divorce to the widest possible margin. If a woman spoke to another man, if she spun in the street, if she wore her hair down in public, those were all reasons a man could divorce his wife. So one said, you can't divorce for any reason. The other rabbi said, you can divorce for any reason.
Which do you think the Jewish men found more popular? Any reason. Any reason. That's why they ask the question, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason? They're following the traditions of the rabbi.
"And he answered and said to them, have you not read," I love Jesus answer this way. Don't you religious leaders ever read your Bible? Don't you know what the Bible says? "Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female?" Going all the way back to Genesis.
For he said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate. They said to him, why then did Moses--" notice-- command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away? They had now taken the permission that Moses gave in the Old Testament as a commandment to the men to dump their wives for any reason.
They had misinterpreted it. Why did Moses command to give a certificate? Jesus said, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to divorce your wives. But from the beginning, it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another commits adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
Now, listen to verse 10, "The disciples said to him, if such is the case of a man with his wife, it's better not to marry." You see, the disciples, too, were used to the interpreter's wide belief that you can divorce your wife for any reason at all. And now Jesus said, well, let's take this back to the Bible. And God in the Bible said this. Therefore, what God has joined, let no man separate.
So if you divorce your wife for any reason except for sexual immorality, you're committing adultery and causing her to commit adultery. The disciples were shocked. And so their logical assumption they made, if such is the case of a man with his wife, it's better to stay single, better never to get married. Look at Jesus answer. He said to them, all cannot accept this saying.
Well, actually, being single is a good option. It's a good plan. It's a good move, like Paul said in chapter 7, verse 1. But he said, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those now--" notice the wording-- "Only those to whom it has been given. That's the gift. God has to give you a gift to be able to handle the sensual temptation and not fall to it.
And then he explains, "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb. And there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men. And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."
There were three groups Jesus talked about who were single. One was those who had a birth defect, congenital anomaly that forbade them from reproduction. Number two, there were people made eunuchs for harems and for kings courts. And they were forced to go through a surgical procedure so they couldn't reproduce.
But then there were those who voluntarily said, I'm going to stay single for the kingdom of God's sake. Notice that Jesus said you have to have a gift to be able to do that. So to be single is one of God's gift. You might be thinking, God, please don't give me that gift. Make me a missionary to the darkest jungles of Africa, but please don't give me that gift. If that's what you're thinking, you don't have the gift. Don't worry. Don't worry. You'll know if you have the gift. I knew I didn't have the gift.
Just out of curiosity, how many of you are married? Raise your hands up. Thank you, hands down. How many of you are single, hands up. OK, hands down. Now, I'm going to ask you one more time, one more question. How many of you are single who want to get married, raise your hands up. OK, keep them up, keep them up, look around, looked around, looked around, looked around. Just helping you guys out a little bit with that. Who knows?
So back to 1-- you got that, you finally got that. OK, 1 Corinthians chapter 7, "This I say as a concession, not a commandment." Verse 7, "I wish that all men were even as myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and the other in that." Singleness is good if it's accompanied with celibacy. But it has to be accompanied by a gift of God.
Now, let me read the first seven verses to you in a translation called The Message translation by Eugene Peterson. I don't always like it as a translation. It's not an accurate translation by any means. It's a paraphrase. But sometimes I think he captures the spirit of the text. And in this particular one I think he helps us understand it.
"Now, getting down to the question you asked in your letter to me, first, is it a good thing to have sexual relations? Certainly, but only within a certain context. It is good for a man to have a wife and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder.
The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality, the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to stand up for your rights. Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible only for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it's for the purposes of prayer and fasting, but only for such times.
Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I'm not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence, only providing my best counsel if you should choose them.
Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me, a simpler life in many ways. But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others." I think that just sums it up beautifully, the spirit as to which Paul was speaking about.
So to sum it up, singleness is good if it has celibacy. Second, being single is good, but it can also be tempting. Third, a single lifestyle is wrong if you're married. And number four, both singleness and marriage are gifts from God and should be treated as such.
Now, beginning in chapter 7, verse 8, he is addressing the Christian who is married or considering marriage. So, first, he is addressing those who are unmarried or formerly married. Then he addresses Christians who are married to other believers.
Then he addresses Christians who are married to unbelievers and the unbeliever wants to stay with the believer. And then he addresses believers married to unbelievers who don't want to stay with the believer, but want to bail on the marriage. He addresses all of those issues, because those of us must have been the questions that they asked Paul in the letter they wrote.
So verse 8, "But I say to the unmarried--" [GREEK] in Greek, those that have never been married-- "and to the widows," those who had been previously married but their husband died, "It is good for them if they remain even as I am." That's good. If you stay single, that's good. But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. "For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
Why does he say that? He says that because you can't serve the Lord as a single person if you're always battling the temptation, the sexual temptation. You're not going to live a happy, fulfilled life serving the Lord that way. So it is better to go ahead and get married instead of living a life that is burning with passion.
By the way, let me just add my two to it. If you are a believer, and you find another believer, and you guys decide to get married, do it quickly. Don't have a long engagement, in other words. Don't say, yeah, we're engaged to be married. In five years, we're going to get married. Oh my goodness. You're going to fight temptation, sexual temptation for five years? If you know you're going to get married, get married quickly. Go through all the necessary preparation.
In the day in which the New Testament was written, people were married when they were early teenagers. That was the norm. Parents prepared children for that commitment early on. I realize that people today aren't necessarily emotionally as equipped even in their 20s and sometimes in the 30s. But get equipped if you get engaged. And get ready, and get prepared, and get married. Don't have a long, drawn-out engagement. That's my two cents, that's my opinion, and I'm going to stick to it.
I'll throw in something else. As you're looking for the right person, be careful. Because you might have an ideal that doesn't exist. And if that ideal exists, you have a problem because, why would that ideal person ever be attracted to you? You say, oh, she has to have the IQ of Albert Einstein. She has to be a professional model, and independently wealthy, and just totally awesome and all these ways. Really, and she's going to fall in love with you? I mean, what about that IQ like Einstein, again?
So let me just say this, focus-- as you're looking for the right person, focus on being the right person. Work on that part. That you can control. That you can work on. Build yourself up, the Bible says, in the most holy faith. Build yourself a man of God, build yourself a woman of God to present to that man or woman in marriage.
Now, verse 10, "To the married, I command; yet not I, but the Lord. A wife is not to depart from her husband." There's language in this chapter that gets some confused a little bit. Here is Paul saying, this is what I'm saying, yet not I, but the Lord. Then later on he'll say, not the Lord, but I.
And it almost sounds like Paul is saying, this is my opinion. This is just my advice. That is not what he's saying. When he says, I'm going to tell you something, not I, but the Lord. He's saying, the Lord already talked about this. The Lord Jesus already had something to say about this issue.
When he says, I'm going to say something, not the Lord but this is me talking, he doesn't doubt that as being authoritative. In fact, he says at the end of the chapter, I believe I have the authority of God. I'm inspired here when I say that. But he's saying, I'm now talking about things that the Lord Jesus didn't speak about in particular.
So we know, for example, Jesus spoke about celibacy and marriage and divorce. But he didn't talk about things like if you're married to an unbelieving spouse and the unbelieving spouse wants to stay or wants to depart. Jesus never touched on some of these issues. Paul does.
So here he says, "I say to the married, I command, yet not I, but the Lord." That is, Jesus or the Lord has already talked about these issues previously. "A wife is not to depart from her husband." Well, did the Lord already addressed that? He sure did. Genesis chapter 2, "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife. The two shall become one flesh," one flesh.
Jesus used the one flesh in Matthew 19 and Matthew chapter 5 to say, what God has joined, let not man separate. Don't divorce for any reason except for immorality. So he's already talked on that, he's already touched on that. "A wife is not to depart--" [GREEK], divorce-- "her husband.
But even if she does depart," let's say she says, well, I've had enough. Irreconcilable differences, I'm just going to dump my husband, but there are two Christians that are married. "Let her remain unmarried," this is her option. She stays unmarried "or be reconciled to her husband. And the husband is not to divorce his wife." It's pretty straightforward.
When we got married and said till death do us part, that wasn't just a cool little thing to say in a wedding, a little cool, awesome catchphrase that sounds Elizabethan to throw in at a marriage. Till death do us part means I'm here till I die. Because that has been the Lord's command from the beginning.
It's pretty easy to understand the scriptural teaching on marriage. It's pretty straightforward. God's original intention, his original design is one man and one woman for one lifetime. That's his original design. Does that get marred? Yes. Does it get messed up? Yes. Does it sometimes need to be adjusted? Yes. And the parameters are clearly laid out in scripture. There's no ambiguity, really, in these things.
But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried. Now, this has bothered some believers. They say, well, why do unbelievers get all forgiven for their past, but believers are fenced in. Really, you don't know the answer to that? You and I are Christians. You and I are called to a higher level. We're called and empowered by God to live at a higher level.
And so because we're now unto the covenant of God's grace, all the past is washed away. But now as God's children, there are certain ways that we live that glorify God in our body and our spirit, which belong to him. That's the higher standard. So he lays it out. Look, stay married.
If one of you leaves then you have to stay unmarried. You live that way. You've chosen that lifestyle. You stay unmarried now. Or at some point in the future you reconcile to the spouse you left. Those are the two options, and it's pretty clear. Well, there was other issues, though, in the Corinthian church.
Because what happens if a believer-- or let's say you have a marriage. You have to unbelievers. One gets saved. And the saved believer goes, man, I'm a Christian now. I want my, let's say, husband to be a Christian. Or I want my wife to be a Christian, if you're a man.
So you've got a believer and an unbeliever. And the believer wakes up and he goes, wait a minute. This is an unequal yolk. I'm married to an unbeliever. Didn't Paul say only believers are to be married to believers? But now I find myself married to an unbelievable. Well, yeah, but that's because you got saved. Yeah, but now I'm married to an unbeliever. Now we have an unequal yoke.
And besides that, I met this real cute Christian girl at church who thinks I'm awesome, and spiritual, and smart, and witty. And maybe it's the Lord. No, it's your hormones, pretty sure. So he gives directions for that. To the rest I say, "To the rest I, not the Lord, say," that is, this hasn't been addressed specifically in the words of Jesus or in the Old Testament. "If any brother has a wife who does not believe and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her."
So the unbeliever says, you know what? I don't want to bail on the marriage. I still love you as my spouse. I want to make these things work out. I don't agree with your religion. I'm not all into that. But I love you and I'm committed to you. If you're a believer, let that happen. And he explains why.
A woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
What does it mean that one is sanctified by the other? Well, I'll tell you what it, first, doesn't mean. It doesn't mean they are automatically saved because one person in that family is a believer, doesn't mean that. Because if it meant that, he wouldn't have called them a spouse who doesn't believe.
He says, if you have a husband who's an unbeliever. He wouldn't call him an unbeliever if they're automatically saved. Now they're a believer. So it doesn't mean that if you marry an unbeliever, the unbeliever is now saved. It means they're sanctified, or set apart, or in a position of influence by you.
So here's the idea. Let me give you an analogy. The unbeliever is not directly unto the spout where the blessing comes out. You as a believer are unto the spout where the blessing comes out. But as the blessing comes out on you, child of God, the droppings and the splashing are going to go on your family. The grace of God is going to be conferred in an influential way, a sanctifying way, a special grace kind of a way, because of the presence of just one believer in that household.
Do you know that's a biblical principle? Do you know that God sometimes blesses an entire household because of one person? The household of Laban was blessed because of Jacob. Laban had to admit that himself. He goes, you know what, I and my whole family, my flocks, my herds, have been blessed because of you, Jacob. Just because you've been hanging around, I've gotten the blessing.
The Bible says the house of Potiphar was blessed because of Joseph's presence within it. Remember in the Old Testament when God was about to destroy Sodom, Abraham finds out and says, hey God, if you find 50 people in that city, will you spare the city for 50 righteous?
God said, done. You find me 50 righteous people in Sodom, and I won't nuke it. Well, he knew he couldn't find 50. He said, would you do it for 40? Sure, if you find me 40. Uh, yeah, probably not going to find 40. How about 30? Are you going to go for 30, God?
Sure. I'll do it for 30-- gets him all the way down to 10. If I find 10 righteous people, done. Find me 10 righteous, the presence of 10 righteous people is enough for me not to judge a whole city. See how that works? That city was sanctified by them, just like a marriage is sanctified by a believing spouse.
Now, he does say, otherwise your children would be unclean. I think what he's referring to is a text in Malachi chapter 3. I always like to find out where things are implied in other parts of the scripture to get the idea of the author, the original author's original intent. So in Malachi-- sorry-- chapter 2 in verse 14, let me read it to you. "Yet you say, for what reason--" that is, the judgment-- "because the Lord has been witnessed between you and the wife of your youth with whom you have dealt treacherously, yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring, therefore, take heed to your spirit, and let us and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce. For it covers one garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously."
Believers provide a special channel of blessing and grace to unbelievers. He seeks godly offspring, verse 15. That's what I believe is a reference, a side reference to this in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, the sanctifying influence. You know, I've seen it. My wife was raised as an atheist. Lenya was raised in an atheistic home, no believers at all.
Her father wrote a book on the power of positive thinking, tucked her in bed every night, told her God didn't exist, and told her little stories, bedtime stories, parables at night of how it's all by human achievement. There is no God. It's all you, baby, all the way. And you can do it, you can do it, those kind of stories. That's how she grew up.
So he was a rabid unbeliever, and positive thinking humanist and an atheist. One day he gets converted to Christ. He gets saved. He's a very intelligent man. He was a doctor, a surgeon, and became a lawyer, so, I mean, a high achiever.
But he was reading the New Testament one day to see if Jesus was a positive person. And as he was reading the Gospel of John, he turned to his wife and said, if what I just read is true, I'm in deep trouble. And he said, and I think I believe what Jesus said, and I need to get baptized.
And his wife looked at him like, you're much learning has made you mad. I mean, who are you? What have you done with my husband? I mean, you were this atheist, and now you want to get baptized. Well, he ended up getting baptized. He went down. Chuck Smith baptized him in the ocean.
And he immediately called up all of his family and said, let me tell you what Jesus did in my life and what he needs to do in your life. So because he was saved, Lenya got saved, one of their other sons got saved, so the blessing spreads in a family. And Paul is going to allude to this in the next few verses.
Verse 15, "But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart." The unbeliever says, yeah, I'm not into your whole religious thing. And I thought I could handle you, but I can't handle you. I just really want out of the marriage. I don't want you to smile all the time to me, or let's pray before a meal, or look at you with your little Bible. I don't want to do that. I'm out of here.
So if the unbeliever departs, let them depart. "A brother or a sister--" that is a Christian-- "is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, oh wife, whether you will save your husband? How do you know, oh husband, whether you will save your wife?"
That's why I say, when it says they're sanctified, it doesn't mean they're saved. Because how do you know that maybe they will get saved. So they're not saved yet just because of the presence of one believer, you follow? The sanctifying influence is different from the salvation that may or may not come as a result of your faithful testimony in the marriage lived out. But how do you know? It might actually happen.
So, so far he has said that the marriage bond is sacred. The marriage bond can only be broken by death, by adultery, or by the unbeliever departing the believer. Those are the three. "But as God is distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." You're gifting, you're calling for singleness, for marriage, for remarriage, so let him walk.
"And so I ordain in all the churches. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised." Now, I don't know how critically you read the scripture. I don't know what depth you question it. But have you ever thought how that is even possible? Once you're circumcised, I mean, you're going to undo that?
So what does he mean, exactly, by that? "If anyone is called while circumcised, let him not become uncircumcised. Was one called while uncircumcised, let him not be circumcised." Now, that is a possibility. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing. But keeping the commandments of God is what matters. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.
Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can be made free, rather use it. It's hard for us living in America, modern America, postmodern America, post-COVID postmodern America, for us to realize the kind of impact that Christianity had in an empire like Rome, an enormous social impact.
There was class warfare in Rome that the church ended. So in Rome, it mattered if you were a Jew or a Gentile. In Rome, it mattered if you were a slave or a freedman. It mattered if you were this class or that class. The church was the only institution in the Roman Empire where those things did not matter at all, that there was no social division. They were all one in Christ.
Paul writes to the Galatians, there's neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female. We're all one in Christ, he said. That was groundbreaking. That was Earth shattering. There was not an institution like that in the entire empire.
So he knows that some are going to come in who have a Jewish background, some who have a Gentile background, that is circumcised and uncircumcised. Paul says, if you came with a Jewish background, you don't have to disassociate yourselves from that identity as a Jewish person.
Now, Josephus actually tells us that during the height of the Greek influence in the Greek and Roman empires that Jewish men who had been circumcised subjected themselves to a surgical operation that made them look like they had not been circumcised so that they would be accepted in the public baths, the public gymnasiums in those days. So that they would be accepted by the Greek culture, some were willing to go through that.
Maybe Paul has that in mind. He goes, ah, don't do that. Don't do that. Don't worry about fitting in in the gym or at the bath. Realize that you're in Christ. There's no divisions in the church. And if he called you while you were circumcised, OK, that's your identity. You don't have to shirk that.
If you are a Gentile, you don't have to try to become Jewish. It's funny how many Gentiles I meet who try to become Jewish. They're wearing a kippah even though they're not Jewish. They're always keeping the festivals even though they're not Jewish. They're always talking Hebrew even though they're not Jewish. And it's almost like they're trying to become neo-Jews.
Be who you are, man. Let God work with what you came with, your background. And no need to fit in for any special occasion. Because he says, "Keeping the commandments of God is what matters." That's what matters. Just have a relationship with God. Love Him. Do His bidding. Do His will. Keep His commands. That's all that really matters. Doesn't matter if you try to not be a Jew anymore, or as a Gentile try to be a Jew. Just be what you are.
"For he who was called," verse 22, "in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise, he who was called while free is Christ's slave." I love the way he words that. Paul is not condoning slavery. But he's not trying to say, let's have an insurrection against Rome, and demand and picket in front of Caesar's Palace-- not the one in Vegas, the one in Rome-- that we want our freedom.
Christ wasn't here to start a revolution. So if you're a slave, be a good slave. Paul knew he couldn't overturn Roman slavery. He wanted the slaves to live a good witness, because those slave's masters may come to know Christ. And those that did often would set those slaves free.
But he also says, if you're a free person and you might have no compulsion under a master whatsoever, keep in mind, you really are the Lord's slave. So we're all slaves of Christ, and he is our master. By the way, you should know also that a large percentage of the Roman empire's population were slaves, some reckon up to 50% were owned by other people.
And it wasn't just unskilled laborers. They were professionals, accountants, doctors, lawyers, professional musicians who are owned by a large number of rich patrons in the Roman Empire. Verse 23, "You were bought at a price. Do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in the state in which he was called. Now, concerning virgins," you probably don't start many conversations like that. [LAUGHTER]
But Paul does. New paragraph-- "Now, concerning virgins," [GREEK] is the Greek word, usually refers to unmarried girls-- "Now, concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord," that is, there's nothing written about in the Gospels or in the Old Testament.
"Concerning virgins," those young women who have never married, "I have no commandment from the Lord. Yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in his mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose, therefore, this is good because of the present distress that it is good for a man to remain as he is.
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Don't seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless, such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you."
What Paul was speaking about exactly, I am not sure. He talks about a present distress. Was he talking about a political uprising? Was he talking about a persecution? Probably he was, but we're not sure-- a persecution that was fomenting and he could see it on the horizon.
We know that a persecution would get so fierce that it would take his own life. He would stand before Caesar Nero. Caesar would let him go. Then Caesar would re-arrest him. And then Caesar would cut his head off, or have his head cut off. So Paul, I think, could see that we're living in some tough times, in some distressful times.
And so he just says, just stay put, stay as you are Corinthians. But if you get married, don't worry about it, you haven't sinned. But he says, "Nevertheless, such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you." You know, we don't have much time. I thought we'd be able to get through the whole chapter. So I'll spare you. We'll wait till next week.
But when he writes about this trouble in the flesh, it's pretty straightforward, common sense stuff. When a person gets married, or when two people get married, they have to adjust a lot. Do I get an amen from that from married people? Can I have an amen?
Yeah, don't you-- is that right? Don't you have to adjust a lot? Don't you come, don't two people come into that relationship with all their habits, and ideologies, and messiness, and baggage? And that has to get sorted out-- distress, the present distress. But he says here, trouble in the flesh.
It's just practical. It's just that's what's going to happen. If you aren't called a singleness and you want to get married, you haven't sinned. But just know there's going to be some adjustment. It's not going to be easy. Listen, it's hard enough for one sinner to live with himself. You get two of them together, you got fireworks.
So marriage solves certain problems and it creates other problems. And we'll finish out the chapter and finish chapter 8 as well next week. Because you'll notice there aren't 40 verses, but only 13. So next week we'll be able to cover all of-- finish chapter 7 and into chapter 8, and let's pray.
Father, thank you for just how nuts and bolts the Bible approaches life with, just so raw and so practical, all the way from a single person, to people who seek marriage, to people who are already married, to people who are married to unbelievers, to people who are finding difficulty in the covenant that they have made and they want to divorce one another and what to do with that.
Thank you, Lord, that your word covers these things. And I pray that you would use our lives as gracious channels to impart a sanctifying influence upon those who are unbelievers in our sphere of influence in our realm in our families. We pray that through our lives many will come to know you and we will grow stronger.
Lord, we also live in a present distress, a day and age which is very, very unique nationally, but also internationally. I believe you are setting this world up or allowing the world to be set up for what you predicted in your word in the last days. And so I pray that our hearts would be strong, and would be courageous, and would be set afire, and would be not intimidated by worldly thinking or worldly ideologies, that we wouldn't care how we fit in with the worldly gymnasiums, or the worldly political structures, but we would live to please you and to bless others in the name of Jesus, and to get the gospel out. And to do it with love, but without apology. May we live to please you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit as we live to do that. In Jesus' name, Amen.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us from this teaching in our series Expound.