Sunday, June 26, 2011

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 - God's Design for Marriage

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Opening thought
A young couple got married and left on their honeymoon. When they got back, the bride immediately called her mother.

"Well, how was the honeymoon?" asked the mother.
"Oh Mamma!" she exclaimed. "The honeymoon was wonderful! So romantic!"

No sooner had she spoken the words than she burst out crying. "But mamma . . . as soon as we returned, Sam started using the most horrible language. He's been saying things I've never heard before! All these awful 4-letter words! You've got to come get me and take me home... please Mamma!"

"Now Sarah . . ." her mother answered. "Calm down! Tell me, what could be so awful? What 4-letter words has he been using?"

"Please don't make me tell you, Mamma." wept the daughter. "I'm so embarrassed! They're just too awful! You've got to come get me and take me home... please Mamma!"

"Darling, baby, you must tell me what has you so upset . . . Tell your mother these horrible 4-letter words!"

Still sobbing, the bride replied, "Oh, Mamma . . . words like dust, wash, iron, and cook!"

Today we are going to talk about marriage and what one passage of Scripture says about its design.

Contextual Notes:
Paul’s letters to the Corinthians let us in on the tangled mess that was the Corinthian church. They were confused about Paul’s teaching on marriage, among other things. Some had taken his recommendation of celibacy as an apostolic ruling and either ended their marriages or its benefits.

Paul is not writing a treatise on marriage, but only responding to questions the Corinthian believers have asked him by letter for his advice (“Now for the matter you wrote about” 1 Cor. 7:1). Corinth might well have been the most lascivious city in the Empire, and this discussion is the natural next topic after dealing with the issues of immorality at the end of chapter 6.

Key Truth: Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 to teach the believers principles about marriage’s design as a mutually exclusive, affectionate, and physical male-female relationship.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about marriage.
Key Verse: 1 Cor. 7:3-4
Pray and Read:  1 Corinthians 7:1-5

Sermon Points:
1.   Marriage is designed as a mutually exclusive male-female relationship (1 Cor. 7:1-2)
2.   Marriage is designed as a mutually affectionate male-female relationship (1 Cor. 7:3).
3.   Marriage is designed as a mutually physical male-female relationship (1 Cor. 7:4-5)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   The marriage questions are uniquely Gentile. The Jews have Genesis 1:28; 2:18. The rabbis taught that marriage is a man’s moral duty. 1 Cor. 7:1: “not to touch a woman”  – quoting a view current in Corinth, meaning a man being sexually involved with a woman. The verb haptomai “touch” here is used of wrestlers grappling in the ring, so Paul’s language is quite colorful and leaves no doubt what he is talking about.
b.   Hedge against immorality (porneia): Men with questions may be wondering about heterosexuality, homosexuality, and pedophilia. 1 Cor 7:7: Paul is not against marriage. Be “like me” does not mean only “be celibate” but “not distracted by sex.” Paul is teaching monogamy clearly.
c.   Paul has a high view of marriage – as a mystery revealing how Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32; cf. Eph 5:22-33; Rom 7:1-4; John 2:1-11; 1 Tim 5:14; Heb. 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7).
d.   APPLICATION: A mutually exclusive male-female relationship means that the only persons involved in it are one man and one woman. That means there is no other person involved in it. It means a marriage where another woman is not involved. Where another man is not involved. Where a friend is not involved. Where a parent is not involved. Where a child is not involved.
a.   The marital duty is literally “debt” here (opheile) and are jointly shared by both husband and wife. Marriage not only fulfills the Godly purpose of procreation, and that should not be minimized, but it also fulfills the purpose of affection and companionship.
b.   Paul is moving them away from the Roman norm where the husband dominates the wife. In Christian marriage, Paul says there should be mutual affection and mutual giving and taking of one another.
c.   APPLICATION: Being affectionate means you sit and listen to her. She wants you to be her best friend. Serving each other. Helping each other. Considering the likes and dislikes of your spouse. Does it cross your mind what he likes? Does it ever occur to you what he needs?
a.   Sex is not dirty in marriage. It is a wonderful gift for married people. It is essential in marriage, but it should not be used as a reward or withheld as punishment in marriage.
b.   Marriage is to be sexually satisfying (7:3-4). Paul is positing a shockingly modern idea for 1st Century. In the 1st Century, sexual satisfaction came in using other people, dominating them. Christianity is not anti-sex; it is pro-sex. It is God’s wedding gift to every couple.
c.   v. 4: belong, exousiazo – have authority. It is a radical idea for a Roman audience that a wife (legal chattel) could have a “right” to a husband’s body. Men felt free to take advantage of slaves, other women, girls, boys, or other men at will. Extra marital activity of any kind is unacceptable for Christians.
d.   Paul says, “Stop depriving one another, as you are doing” and do not stop normal sexual marriage relationship. It is a precious gift that is a fusing of two into one.
e.   Paul may be addressing the issue of married couples abstaining in light of the “present crisis” (1 Cor 7:26) of rising anti-Semitism and persecution. In the ancient world, the only effective form of contraception was to stop engaging in the activities that produce babies. In the 2nd century AD, Soranus noted that “it is safer to prevent conception from occurring than to destroy the fetus through abortion.”[1] Paul reminds them that “coming together” should be a regular part of marriage – with a welcoming of any gift of a little one that He may provide in the process.
f.    APPLICATION: One could easily argue that our current national financial situation would not be nearly as bad if we had 40% more people who were taxpayers, consumers, home buyers, voters, entrepreneurs, volunteers to defend our nation against aggressors, and contributors to Social Security. But instead, we aborted them. Millions more were never conceived because their often otherwise pro-life Christian parents took forms of birth control that after their conception, made their mothers’ wombs inhospitable to that new person, and they were rejected and died.
g.   APPLICATION: Paul is talking about the deepest and most intimate way humans can express love to one another, two becoming one for the glory of God. You don’t use your body to control and manipulate your spouse. Beyond that there is a physical aspect to this beyond the marriage bed. She needs your physical body with her. She wants to know that she is the one in whom you confide. That she is your best friend and confidant. She wants to know that she is the most important person in your life. The best communicator of love to a man is your respect. Did you know that having his wife’s respect is more important to him than even having the physical body of his wife? It is, but built into the marriage act is also an issue of respect. Knowing that she wants to give herself to him is so important to him – respect is also a large part of the physical component of marriage. A man is not going to open his heart to a woman he doesn’t trust, and he won’t trust a woman who does not respect him. A woman is not going to open her heart and life to a man whom she doesn’t trust, and she will not trust him until she feels loved by him.
h.   Trust is that deepest and surest foundation of any relationship, and especially in marriage. Selfishness is what destroys trust. When you put yourself first over your spouse, you are damaging trust, and that is damaging to your marriage. Selfishness is the torpedo that sinks marriage more than anything else.

[1] Zondervan NT Background Commentary, 3:135.
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