The practicality of 1st Corinthians
The book of I Corinthians, as you already know by now, is intensely practical. It doesn’t get into a whole lot of theology, it sort of hits it lightly and then it dives deeply into the practical application. And this chapter is no exception.
It deals, basically, with the subject of marriage. And marriage is, let’s face it, a very hot item today
He stated in Matthew 19 that man and woman were made for each other.
Marriage for this life only
Jesus also taught not only that it was designed by God to be monogamous, to be unbroken, but that it was only for this life. Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:35, all of those indicates that marriage is only for this earth not for heaven.
Jesus and Paul on equal basis in terms of revelation
Now, a footnote to begin with. Many people, unfortunately, have decided that the first thing to do with the seventh chapter of I Corinthians is just chuck it … just get rid of it. Because there are disclaimers throughout the chapter. Paul is trying to tell us that this chapter is nothing but his opinion. And they say, you see, if you look, for example, verse 12, he says: “But to the rest speak I not the Lord.” So, he wants to make it very clear to begin with that this is his opinion, not God’s.
Back tip to verse 10 and you’ll see what I mean. “Unto the married, I command, yet not I but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband.” And you see, he quotes right out of the Lord’s words in Mark 10.
So, when he says it’s not the Lord but myself, he is saying–I’m no longer quoting the teaching of Jesus. He is not saying it doesn’t matter what I say and it’s human opinion. No. He is simply saying sometimes I’m quoting Christ, sometimes I’m not. It’s as if he says – quote, end quote.
And really what he’s doing is putting himself on an equal basis with Christ in terms of revelation.
…So, Paul is simply saying – If I…If I’m quoting the Lord, I’ll say it. If I’m not, I’ll tell you it’s not a quote of the Lord’s, it’s some new information.
Our Lord, when He was talking to His disciples after He gave them the parables of the Kingdom, called the disciples scribes.
And what He said to them was this, “Every scribe who is instructed concerning the Kingdom of heaven, is like a man who was a householder, or a house owner, who brings forth out of his treasure, things old and things new.” So, He says – You’re going to be scribes. Some of the things you’re going to write are going to be old things; some of them are going to be new. In I Corinthians 7, you simply have an illustration of that
The Roman marital situation
Now, jet me tell you a little bit about the Roman marital situation. In the first place, Rome had no uniform set of marital laws. You could get married at least four different ways, all of which were recognized as marriage in some sense.
- The first thing would be that there were many slaves, tens and hundreds of thousands of slaves and they didn’t…, they weren’t even considered human so they didn’t even have any of the rights of a citizen really. And when they wanted to get married, or come together in what really was just a living together, rather than an official marriage, the owner of the slaves would agree to what was called a contuberneum, which simply means tent companionship.
…So you had a lot of real problems in the early church because so many of the early Christians were slaves and they would have had such mixed up marital backgrounds
- There was another way that you could be married and another kind of relationship and this was called usus, U-S-U-S. And this particular custom meant that a woman and a man could live together for one year…
- There was another way, coemptioinmanum which was marriage by sale where the father sold his girl to the husband. If the guy would come across with the right price, he could have the daughter
- But the most elevated, the most noble, the Patrician people married under the thing that was called confarreatia, a coming together on a high level. This was the classy kind of marriage. And you want to know something very interesting? The entire marriage ceremony as we know it today in the Christian church comes from this pagan Roman marriage]
What happened was, the Roman Catholic Church simply picked up the standard Roman ceremony and when the Reformation came, nobody changed it;
…And it was always put on the same finger, this finger where I’ve got mine, where you’ve got yours because in their wonderful ability of medical science in their dissecting of the human body, they discovered that a nerve ran from the middle of this finger right to the heart. And since that nerve was connected to the heart, that’s the place where the ring ought to go
Feminine rebellion in the Roman Empire
On top of all of that, did you know that at the time of the Apostle Paul, in those days in the Roman Empire, there was a feminist rebellion? Nothing new has ever happened, folks. I want you to know that. Nothing new. Solomon was right, there’s nothing new under the sun.
And this is a quote from Jeremy Parkapino whose written an interesting book called DAILY LIFE IN ROME. It said:
“Along side the heroines of the aristocracy, the irreproachable wives and the excellent mothers who were still found within its ranks, it is easy to sight emancipated or rather unbridled wives who evaded the duties of maternity for fear of losing their good looks. Some took a pride in being behind their husbands in no sphere of activity and vie with them in tests of strength which their sex would have seemed to forbid. Some were not content to live their lives by their husband’s side, but carried on another life without him. Were that because of voluntary birth control or because of the impoverish stock; many Roman marriages at the end of the first and the beginning of the second centuries were childless. The movement even became more wide-spread.
Juvenal, he says, this is a quote:
“With spear in hand and breasts exposed, who took to pig-sticking. Others attended chariot races in men’s clothing and some became wrestlers.” You always wondered where women wrestlers got their start … in ancient Rome.
…again writing from the Roman viewpoint, “What modesty can you expect in a woman who wears a helmet, hates her own sex and delights in feats of strength?” end quote. Not exactly my kind of woman.
It’s a good thing to be single (i.e. you’re not abnormal)
Four key ideas, coming at the problem from the standpoint of celibacy, or being single. And you can follow along as we look. Number one, celibacy is good. Verse 1: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote unto me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Now we’ll stop there.
He does not say it’s the only good. It is also good to be married. He is simply saying it isn’t evil to be single. You know, that’s a problem today because so many people think if you’re not married, something’s wrong with you. Well, she’s not married; I wonder where the quirks are. There’s got to be something wrong. There must be some skeletons in the closet, see. We have those little innuendos, and inferences. We say – Poor fella, must have some abnormalities. See. Can’t find anybody in this whole world that will take you on, you’re in bad shape … bad shape.
Jewish view of the unmarried = sin
…he just says it’s kalos, it’s profitable, it’s beneficial, it’s good to be unmarried, nothing wrong with that at all. It’s very good. He’s not using comparatives, he’s stating a fact. Now the reason it’s so urgent that he say this is because of the Jews in the church. The Jews, you see, use to teach that if you didn’t have a wife, you were a sinner. They said this: A man who does not have a wife and a child has slain his posterity and lessened the image of God in the world. Seven kinds of people couldn’t get to heaven, they had a list. Number one on the list, a Jew who has no wife. Number two, a wife who has no children.
You say – Well, what about the Old Testament, it says it’s not good for man to be alone? Well, you can be single and still not be alone. You can have friends. Psalm 68:6 says: “God sets the solitary in families.” Maybe your family is Grace Church. Maybe your family is somebody else’s family. Maybe your family is your friends, but God will give you somebody to fulfill the need for other friends. But it’s good to be single. If you’re single, it’s good. It’s not bad, it’s not evil, it’s not wrong, it’s good.
Hard for the unmarried to be pure because of temptation
Listen, being single is good, but it’s tempting. It’s tempting. And the gross style of Corinthian life made it harder for the unmarried to be pure, just like it does in our day.
Some reasons to be married
Number one, procreation. Genesis 1:28 says to be fruitful and multiply and you’re suppose to have children. That’s one reason to get married, to have children. And that’s a good reason to get married. God wants to reproduce, especially godly people.
Secondly, pleasure … another reason to get married is pleasure. Did you know that God designed marriage just for physical pleasure? Just to enjoy. Hebrews 13:4, the bed is undefiled. In other words, it’s an enjoyable experience. Marriage is honorable. Marriage is enjoyable. Proverbs 5 talks about the satisfaction that a husband finds in the physical body of his wife and vice versa.
Thirdly, marriage is provision. Another reason for marriage is provision. God wants a man to provide what a woman needs. The woman, says Peter in I Peter 3, is the weaker vessel and God knows that a man can support the weakness of a woman. God wants the man to provide for the woman, to nourish her, Ephesians 5 says, to cherish her, to strengthen her, to give her something to lean on, to fortify her. So, it’s procreation, it’s pleasure, it’s provision.
And lastly, marriage is for purity, to keep us from committing fornication. So, marriage is for procreation, pleasure, provision, partnership, picture and purity. Those are the reasons the Bible gives and Paul isn’t only simplifying everything to this, he’s just dealing with one aspect
Fourth, marriage is a picture. Marriage is given as a picture. Ephesians 5 says it is a symbol to the world of God’s relationship to His church.
Singleness as a gift
…the gift isn’t just being single, that isn’t a gift to some people, that is torture. The gift is being single and loving it. The gift is being single and not being tempted. The gift is being single and not being pre-occupied with not being single.
(1 Corinthians 7:7) “I would that all men were even as I myself, but every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, another after that.”
Let’s face it, he says, I wish you could all be like me and not have to be married. But this is a gift, I happen to have it, you may not.
Now, here’s a beautiful thought, people. While marriage is not a command, it is stressed as the norm because of the problem of staying pure. And within marriage the physical should be continually dealt with and fulfilled in order to keep that purity. It is best to be married. But there are some, he says, like me and I wish there were more, who don’t have to be married because they have a special gift of God.
Next time you see a single person, don’t assume in your mind that there’s something warped about them. Don’t assume – Poor soul, must have bad breath, or socially unacceptable personality traits, don’t assume that. You might assume, first of all, that maybe they have a charisma of God. That they are a uniquely prepared and designed human being, gifted with the Holy Spirit and gifted by the Holy Spirit for singleness. Now, I have a gift…several spiritual gifts, so do you. Well, here is another spiritual gift that perhaps could be added to the list in a little different sense and that is the gift of being single.