Sunday, March 14, 2010

Christ As God's Wisdom For Questions About Marriage: 1 Corinthians 7

Theme: Christ is God's wisdom...

2. For answering questions (7-16)
      A. About marriage (7:1-40)

Having corrected problems reported by the household of Chloe in chapters 1-6 (cf. 1:11; 5:1),  chapters 7-16 now turn to answering questions the Corinthians asked in a letter to Paul (7:1). Chapter seven answers questions about the relation of marriage to celibacy (1-9), divorce (10-16), vocation (17-24), and virgins (25-38).

The relation of marriage to celibacy (1-9). For those who are unmarried, and widows, it is good to remain single (1), but only if they have the gift of self control--that is, they do not burn--in which case they should marry (9b).  

By contrast, those who are married should maintain physical relations because of immoralities (2), Satan's tempting, and lack of self control (5). Both husband and wife have authority over each others' body (3-4), and should only suspend physical relations 1) if they both agree to, 2) only for an agreed upon length of time, and 3) for the purpose of devotion to prayer (5). This temporary suspension of physical relations for prayer is only a concession for those who sought it, and not a command for all married couples to follow (6).

The relation of marriage to divorce (10-16). A married couple should not get divorced (10-11), and should either be reconciled to one another or remain single (11). In the case where a saved person is married to an unsaved person, he too should stay married, because this renders a gospel influence on the unsaved person and children (12-14).

Nevertheless, if an unbelieving partner wants to divorce a believer, the believer should let him go (15-16). There is some debate about whether the believer is free to remarry. Some see the phrase, "the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases" as meaning the believer is free to remarry, noting there is no command to "remain unmarried" as there was for two believers who get a divorce (cf. 11).  Others believe it simply means the believer is not obligated to prevent a divorce, and in no way authorizes remarriage, referring also to such passages as Mark 10:11, which says it is adultery for someone to marry a person who has been divorced.

The instructions about divorce were "I say, not the Lord". This does not mean the instructions are  not authoritative, because Paul spoke by inspiration of the Spirit (cf. 40). Rather, it probably means Paul was addressing a subject which the Lord had not.

The relation of marriage to vocation (17-24). Generally, Christians should not worry about changing their vocation, but are free to improve their status (e.g., a slave becoming free).

The relation of marriage to virgins (25-38). There is some difference of view as to whether this instruction is authoritative, since it comes as Paul's "opinion", and not as a "command of the Lord". Some see this as merely advice from Paul, which is not binding. Others point that the word "opinion" means "judgment", and, as stated above, the fact that the instruction was not a "command of the Lord" may only mean that the Lord didn't address the subject, not necessarily that the instruction is not from God. This view may be supported by the statement, in vs. 40, that Paul was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Certainly "all Scripture is God breathed", and "profitable for doctrine", etc. (2 Tim. 3:16).

Basically, the instruction to virgins is that it is better to remain single, but not a sin to marry (38). The reasons Paul judged it better for virgins to remain single are: 1) because a time of distress was either upon or soon coming upon Christians (26-28), 2) because the world was passing away, and those who are married are more concerned about things of the world (29-32), and 3) because remaining single promotes undistracted service to Christ, whereas marriage tends to divide one's interests (32-35). It is good to marry, but better to remain single (providing one has the gift (cf. 8-9). 

Verses 39-40 add that widows are free to remarry as long as they marry a believer, but that they would probably be happier if they remain single (provided they have the gift of self control--cf. 8-9).

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