“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” ~ George Washington (1796)
The need for grace and unity within the church today is long overdue. So many divisions exist over pastoral and denominational preference, sexual immorality, lawsuits, etc. has caused the American church to retreat to its own secluded island far away from the biblical model. Paul addresses the church’s questions in regards to marriage in 1 Corinthians 7. But before we look at Paul’s answer to their questions, we need to understand the context from which such questions arise.
The city of Corinth in Paul’s day was identified by its propensity for sexual promiscuity. The temple was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, in which they employed and encouraged the use of prostitutes. There was a tremendous amount of sexual “freedom” in and through out Corinth. In chapter 5, Paul addressed the concern over a man who had sexual relations with his father’s wife (ie. the son’s step-mother). Gordon D. Fee said this in regards to Corinth,
“All of this evidence together suggests that Paul’s Corinth was at once the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world.”
And in relation to the cultural struggle between morality and promiscuity, F. F. Bruce said this,
“The transition from chapter 6 to chapter 7 illustrates the necessity Paul was under of waging a campaign on two fronts. In chapter 6 he dealt with libertines (one devoid of most moral restraints)who argued that everything was permissible, and in particular that sexual license was a matter of ethical indifference. In chapter 7 he deals with ascetics (those who practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons)who, partly perhaps in reaction against the libertines, argued that sexual relations of every kind were to be deprecated, that Christians who were married should henceforth live as though they were unmarried, and those who were unmarried should remain so, even if they were already engaged to be married.”
There is responsibility that comes within the union between a man and woman, and how they need to fight more than ever in world that has become increasingly hostile towards true biblical marriage. Similar to Corinth, America has a multifaceted view of marriage. Traditional marriage, homosexual marriage, civil union, common law marriage, polygamy, etc. These various views of marriage have been shaped and re-shaped throughout American history, typically by the shifting winds and pressures of cultural conformity. So now, when the church steps up to define and defend marriage from a biblical point of view, we’re the ones that are proclaiming hate speech upon anyone outside of a biblical context. The biblical institution that has been the standard for thousands of years now has to defend itself against a culture hell-bent upon purging itself of any morality.
Sexual intimacy was created by God, and Paul has to remind the Corinthians of this fact. In verse 1 of chapter 7, we see what can viewed as “Corinthian Theology” concerning marriage. “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’” This obviously was an extreme reaction against the sexual overload in Corinth. God clearly intended that sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is something to be enjoyed. Yet unfortunately, we see this in American culture as well. Sex has been turned in to an “anything goes” showcase of immorality and self-gratification. All of which are the complete opposite of what God intended. What do we learn from the “first marriage” in the Garden? “Marriage should mirror God’s image, multiply a godly heritage, manage God’s realm, mutually complete one another (both physically and spiritually), and model Christ’s relationship to the church.” (Author unknown)
We know that men and women share a common love language: physical touch. Both of us were created with a sexual drive to please our spouse. But therein lies one of the biggest battles we need to fight on a daily basis. We all too often bring a skewed sexual perspective in to our marriage, and more specifically, the marriage bed. The world says to fulfill your sexual desire any way and every way that pleases YOU. It’s completely self-centered. The New American Standard Bible uses the term “fulfill” in verse 3, literally meaning “render” (to give in return, to give in acknowledgement of dependence, or obligation, to do for another). Scripture says to fulfill your sexual desire by giving of yourself to the pleasure of your spouse. It’s completely selfless. Pastor Brian Bell (Calvary Murrieta) said it this way, “Spouses are sexually indebted to each other & must regularly pay up…But what a wonderful bill to pay!”
God Himself said, “It is not good that man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18). God created marriage in the garden. The Corinthians forgot this fact by becoming entrenched in man’s point of view. Do we not see this in American culture as well? This is American society. Sex sells everything! Sex, sexual desire, promiscuity, and pornography drives the movie industry, literature, sports, marketing, you name it! Take for example, 50 Shades of Grey. According to Wikipedia, “The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Critical reception of the book, however, has been mixed, with the quality of its prose generally seen as poor.” In other words, the book is horribly written. But that doesn’t matter since it’s laced with dangerous and explicit sexual content.
This whole premise is even driving the food industry. So as not to go too far down this road, I wrote a very short letter to one particular fast food chain:
Dear Carl’s Jr.,
HALF-NAKED WOMEN, LUST & SEXUAL PROMISCUITY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SELLING CHEESEBURGERS!!!!
A father trying his best to raise his two daughters not to think that they have to be half-naked to get a man’s attention, and a son, whose perspective of women should not come from your commercials.
So Paul brings this portion of his answer to a close by painting a picture to the Corinthian church that proper sexual conduct, in the context of marriage, is a beautiful thing! The American church needs to take this to heart as well. God tells us that we are to “be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) and “be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:19). Sexual union in the context of a biblical marriage brings purity to the husband and the wife (1 Corinthians 7:2-4). It protects us from sexual immorality by meeting each other’s needs for sexual fulfillment.
So yes, if you were not yet aware, your marriage is under attack! The institution of marriage, as God intended, has been under attack since the beginning of time! It was attacked in the garden. It was attacked in Corinth. It’s being attacked today! But allow me to offer you one piece of advice: Retreat is not an option! You must stand and fight against the powers that seek to destroy what God has brought together. In a conversation with a friend at our church, the question was asked, “Is your marriage under attack?” He emphatically answered, “No, because I fight for it every day!” To which was answered, “Well, if it’s not under attack, then who are you fighting against?!”
So the question stands, “Are you going to retreat? Or are you going to stand your ground and fight?” Your marriage is under attack from forces both external AND internal. A culture and society driven by sexual promiscuity (established by Satan) will do all it can to drive your marriage apart. 1 John 2:16 states, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” If those things are allowed in to your marriage, and the longer they’re left to infest, roots will grow deep, and slowly choke out anything pure that remains. Take for example, author Danielle Steel. Her books have sold 800 million copies! Books such as Passions Promise, Now and Forever, Season of Passion, To Love Again, Once in a Lifetime, No Greater Love, The Wedding, The Kiss, Dating Game, Toxic Bachelors, and Betrayal. Even though she is world-famous and has millions upon millions of dollars, she is herself without true love. She has been married and divorced 5 times. It pains me to see people put so much value in what the world has to say about love, marriage, and sexual relationship. They are completely devoid of what true love is! This is why divorce, separation, irreconcilable differences, or even “conscious uncoupling” is an epidemic in our country. The mentality of “what’s best for me” destroys the sanctity, purity, and holiness of what God Himself created.
Christian couples (which are to be a picture of the Church) must, with all urgency, fight against anything that would seek to destroy what God has joined together. Romans 8:1 declares that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Why would this stop short of the marriage union? There isn’t anything that has been done that Christ cannot forgive, heal, and bring hope and reconciliation to a marriage. Ultimately, as Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church, he spoke in harmony with Jesus. There is a battle going on, and retreat is not an option!!
“Paul commanded Christian husbands and wives to stay together, and to share their bodies—as well as their lives—with each other. It is impossible for a Christian husband and wife couple to provide a model of reconciliation to the world if they cannot reconcile with each other.” ~ Dr. Thomas Constable
Christians (married, unmarried, single, widowed, in a current state of separation and/or divorce), it comes down to this:
1. SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD (Matthew 6:33)
2. PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD (Ephesians 6)
3. RISE UP AND BUILD (Nehemiah 2:18)
As you work to build up or rebuild your marriage, don’t forget that what you seek to do is a righteous thing in the eyes of God. You will come under attack. In your marriage, prayer is your preparation and your protection as you fight your battle against any force that would seek to destroy the walls of marital union.
May the Lord bless you!