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Bible Commentaries

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 7

Verses 1-9

  1. INTRO:
    1. Dr. Les - Back from Burma. CHW’s
    2. Note, Paul’s context in this chapter leans actually to celibacy more than marriage. Yet, in the midst of his discourse on celibacy he gives extraordinary advice to married couples.
      1. See the transition in vs.10 Now to the married.
    3. God is not against sex...He is for marriage for some & for celibacy for others!
    4. Singleness is an issue for everyone. We are all single at some time.
      1. Before marriage, after divorce, after being widowed[Single for all seasons(m/w who never marry); Single for a season(adults who will be married); Single again(separated; divorced widowed)]
      2. Myth: “God’s best is marriage. Singleness is second best.” (Nope: vs.8, 35)
      3. Singleness is important for some seasons & some reasons.
    5. Stats: In 1960 Men were marrying at age 23, women age 20. Today: m-27, w-23.
      1. Waiting longer to get married but not waiting to have sex.
      2. More are having sex in the meanwhile [known today as friends w/benefits!]
      3. At turn of last cent[1900] 92% of brides were virgins; 1960-65 43%; 1980’s only 14%. (Mark Driscoll, 1 Cor.7 Podcast.)
    6. Solo or Duo?
      1. Ok, it’s the Olympics, your sitting in the stands at Track & Field.
        1. Which is better the solo/individual races, or the relay races? [100m or the relay race?]
      2. Your now sitting in the bleachers court side at the Tennis Matches.
        1. Which is better, singles or doubles?
      3. Lets move indoors to the Ice Rink.
        1. Which is more beautiful, the solo competitors with their speed & strength, or the partner doubles competition with their skill of being in perfect sync?
      4. WWF Wrestling.
        1. Which is better...never mind!
      5. In Synchronized Swimming, going solo would look pretty funny & be pretty hard to do the “sync”!
      6. In the Shot-put it would look equally strange to see 2 men throwing the shot-put… together???
      7. So, Which is more pleasing to watch? More pleasing to the judge? Well both are!
      8. In life there comes a time to choose to fly solo, or form a duo!
      9. In Prov.30:18,19 the writer Agur sees beauty in both: There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Yes, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the air (solo), The way of a serpent on a rock (solo), The way of a ship in the midst of the sea (solo), And the way of a man with a virgin (duo).
  2. SOLO OR DUO? CELIBACY & MARRIAGE IS A GIFT! (1-9)
    1. So, Paul starts with the question of singleness (1,7,8):
      1. He teaches that celibacy is good (1).
      2. That celibacy can be tempting (2,9).
      3. That celibacy is a gift from God (7).
      4. That celibacy is wrong for married people (3-5).
        1. One camp at this time was encouraging sexual abstinence in marriage. (the Essenes)
        2. Another camp taught marriage was wrong or unprofitable. (i.e. Stay single)
        3. Paul speaks against both of these.
    2. (1a) Paul finally gets to discuss the several topics they had inquired from him.
    3. (1b) Touch – sexual relations. (explained in vs.2a)
    4. (2b) Let each man/woman have - reflects a Greek idiom for “Let them have sexual relations.”
      1. Jewish people saw married sexual intimacy as the best deterrent to sexual immorality, and Paul here agrees!
      2. Yet as John MacArthur states, “Marriage cannot be reduced simply to being God’s escape valve for the sex drive. Paul does not suggest that Christians go out and find another Christian to marry only to keep from getting into moral sin. He had a much higher view of marriage than that.”
      3. Marriage is not the lesser of 2 evils, but as a necessary safeguard against evil.
    5. Scripture gives at least 5 reasons for marriage:
      1. Procreation - God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply Gen.1:28
      2. Pleasure - Proverbs says, And always be enraptured/intoxicated with her love. (with the wife of his youth) 5:19b [5a Let her breasts satisfy you at all times]
        1. Song of Solomon centers around the physical attractions and pleasures of marital love.
      3. Partnership - Woman was created for man to be a helper suitable for him (Gen. 2:18)
        1. Friendship between husband & wife is one of the key ingredients of a good marriage.
      4. Picture - of the church.
        1. For this reason a man shall leave his father & mother & be joined to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Eph. 5:31,32
      5. Purity - It protects from sexual immorality by meeting the need for physical fulfillment.
    6. His own wife(2) - Prov.5:15-18 Drink water from your own cistern, And running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
      1. Benedict's Scrapbook tells of a publisher who offered a prize for the best answer to the question, "Why is a newspaper like a good woman?" The winning answer was this. "It's like a good woman, because every man should have one of his own and not look at his neighbor's!"
    7. (3a) Render – payback, to pay one’s dues, to render.
      1. The present imperative indicates “habitual duty”.
    8. (3b) Due – obligation, debt, due. “The specific obligation involved in the marital union.”Lenski
      1. Spouses are sexually indebted to each other & must regularly pay up…But what a wonderful bill to pay!
    9. (4) Release your rights to one another!
      1. As I say this, may I remind all the men in 6 more chapters Paul teaches us regarding love, “Love suffers long and is kind;…does not behave rudely, does not seek its own,”!
    10. (5) Those persons who have opted for celibacy in marriage are not spiritually superior at all.
      1. Their withdrawal has deprived their spouses of something that is rightfully important.
      2. Sexual relations between a husband and his wife are God-ordained and commanded. The only exceptions are:
        1. Mutual - with consent. (lit. in symphony/ συµφωνου)
        2. Temporary – for a time; and come together again.
        3. Important Reason – that you may give yourselves to fasting & prayer.
    11. (6) Abstinence within marriage is their idea, not Paul’s. [This in vs.6, refers to vs.5]
    12. (7) Was Paul ever married?
      1. The NT never tells us, neither does extra biblical literature.
      2. Jewish tradition said, “If a man did not marry & have children, he was to have ‘slain his posterity,’ ‘to have lessened the image of God in the world.’”
        1. Yet, this doesn’t prove Paul didn’t have a wife, as there were godly Jewish bachelors like John the Baptist & Jesus.
      3. Most argue Paul was married because he was on the Sanhedrin.
        1. Acts 26:10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
          1. His ability to vote shows he was a member. And members were required to be married & have children.
        2. However, the problem w/this argument lies in the fact that these rules didn’t come around until late in the 1st century or early in the 2nd…many years after Paul’s death.
        3. Now, he could have still been married, but his occupation didn’t require it at this time.
        4. What we do know…he was single at this time (around 55ad) & remained so until his death.
      4. Here’s the possibilities: [1] He was a widower. [2] He was married & his wife divorced him upon his conversion to Christianity. [3] He was unmarried.
    13. (7) Gift – (χαρισµα) gracious gift, a gift given out of grace.
      1. Both take a real gift to be able to carry out!
    14. Obviously, singleness has many practical advantages:
      1. It allows much greater freedom in where and how a person serves the Lord.
      2. He is freer to move around and to set his own hours and schedule.
      3. Married persons have many cares and concerns that the unmarried do not have (vv. 32-34).
        1. Rachel Saint (brother Nate Saint) served as a single missionary among the Auca Indians of Ecuador for many years without companionship. She poured out her life and her love to the Indians and found great blessing and fulfillment. [Marilyn Laszlo, Papua New Guinea]
    15. (8) Unmarried – Referring to those who have been divorced & are not yet remarried, rather than those who have always been single.
    16. Widow – Those who have lost their partners through death.
    17. Good – Note he doesn’t say it is better but good.
    18. (9) The antidote is marriage, within which individuals may give legitimate expression to their sex drive.
      1. “Burn” was used throughout ancient romances to describe the arousal of passion, often (metaphorically) through Cupid’s fiery darts.
      2. However, This is not justification for running off & getting married quickly, because you are “burning”!
        1. * No, that simply helps you to determine which “gift” God gave you. *
        2. If they cannot exercise self control – i.e. having passion, thus needing to get married.
      3. It is not an excuse to say “I can’t help myself” or “I have no self-control over it.”
        1. For Paul tells us in the Galatia letter that self-control is a “fruit of the spirit”. To not control the self is a “fruit of the flesh”.
      4. He surely couldn’t tell the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” He couldn’t command them to do something, they couldn’t do!
    19. There are several things that single Christians, who feel their gift is being married, yet haven’t found a mate, ought to do:
      1. First, they should not simply seek to be married, but should seek a person they can love, trust & respect, letting marriage come as a response to that commitment of love
        1. People who simply want to get married for the sake of getting married run a great risk of marrying the wrong person!
      2. Second, it is fine to be on the lookout for the right person, but the best way to find the right person is to be the right person.
        1. If believers are right with God and it is His will for them to be married, He will send the right person - and never too late!
      3. Third, until the right person is found, our energy should be redirected in ways that will be the most helpful in keeping our minds off the temptation.
        1. Two of the best ways are spiritual service and physical activity.
        2. We should avoid listening to, looking at, or being around anything that strengthens temptation.
        3. We should train our minds to focus only on that which is good and helpful, as Paul says in Philippians 4:8.
        4. Myth: “Living in limbo is terrible. Any decision is better than no decision.” Truth: God wants us to learn to be content in any state & to patiently wait on His timing.
        5. Singles, don’t think God has cursed you, or that you are in a holding pattern until you get married. [you’re not Jr. Varsity!]
          1. Instead, God has blessed you at this time to work on you, to mature you in faith & use you for kingdom service, in this state of singleness.
          2. 10% remain single their entire life.
      4. Fourth, we should realize that, until God gives us the right person, He will provide strength to resist temptation.
        1. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it 1 Cor.10:13
      5. Finally, we should give thanks to the Lord for our situation and be content in it.
        1. In your singleness, you can be grateful that you have the: Freedom to be yourself; Freedom to attain your own aspirations; Freedom to take risks; Freedom with use of time; Freedom of mobility; Freedom in financial planning; Freedom to nurture deep relationships; Freedom to lean completely on the Lord; Freedom to serve the Lord in any way.
    20. It’s better to remain single than… (Chuck Swindoll, 1 Corinthians.)
    21. It’s better to remain single than…To choose a non-Christian partner.
    22. It’s better to remain single than…To marry someone who’ll hinder your spiritual growth.
    23. It’s better to remain single than…To marry someone for the wrong motive.
      1. Wrong Motive? To marry for financial security, for sex, for power, prestige, or fear of growing old alone, or because it is expected.
        1. (Shame on us, & our society, for asking one, Why aren’t you married yet? As if singleness is a disease)
        2. Marry for sex? The national average of married couples is ½ hour of intimacy a week. If you marry for that purpose…what are you going to do for
        3. the other 167½ hours?
          1. That’s as foolish as becoming a pastor to peach on Sun mornings…
    24. It’s better to remain single than…To marry w/o being willing to give yourself to another completely!
    25. It’s better to marry if…
    26. It’s better to marry if…Our lives would be more complete w/a mate!
    27. It’s better to marry if…God leads us to someone we love & loves us.
    28. It’s better to marry if…Our relationship will illustrate Christ’s love for His church.
    29. It’s better to marry if…We are willing to spend the rest of our days giving more than receiving!
      1. “Living successfully w/a partner takes lots of time & practice…practice…practice! Like Ice skaters who spend 8 hours a day in the rink w/their partners, falling & helping each other up & landing hard on the ice again.”
      2. Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Eccl.4:9-12
    30. Back to our Olympic analogy…so, which is more pleasing to The Judge...Solo or Duo?…Both are pleasing to him!

Verses 10-16

  1. INTRO:
    1. Marriage (Mawwage) - 9 out of 10 people will get married. A large % of these marriages will end in divorce. Those who remarry ⅔ will end in divorce.
      1. Pollster Louis Harris has written, "The idea that 1/2 of American marriages are doomed is one of the most specious pieces of statistical nonsense ever perpetuated in modern times." It all began when the Census Bureau noted that during one year, there were 2.4 million marriages and 1.2 million divorces. Someone did the math w/o calculating the 54 million marriages already in existence, and presto, a ridiculous but quotable statistic was born. Harris concludes, "Only 1 out of 8 marriages will end in divorce. In any single year, only about 2 percent of existing marriages will break up." (J. Allan Petersen in Better Families. "To Verify," Leadership.)
      2. A divorce reform movement took place in the early 1970s in Great Britain & the U.S. The movement proposed a single, no-fault (blame is assigned to neither party) ground that required a judge to grant divorce if he or she finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
        1. States offering no-fault divorce in 1957: (J. Allan Petersen in Better Families. "To Verify," Leadership.)
          States offering no-fault divorce in 1995: 50
        2. What this country needs is more, No-Fault Marriages! (blame is assigned to neither party)
      3. This generation has “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce”. (a secular book title)
        1. A 25 yr landmark study. We have an entire generation of young Americans raised in divorced families. Concerns on getting married. Fears of being able to stay together with someone.
      4. Marriage is tough. It’s not easy being married. It’s not easy being married to me. Why are we surprised what happens when 2 sinners marry?
      5. Those who live together before marriage, separate and divorce in significantly greater numbers than those who go directly to the altar.
    2. Today there are married couples sitting here or listening in with the plan of breaking up.
      1. It might be for many different reasons: Opps, I married the wrong person; Incompatibility; we shouldn’t have gotten married to begin with; or, we only got married because she was pregnant; I’ve fallen out of love; my spouse has changed; I’ve found someone that understands me. And the list goes on.
    3. Others, already have been through the agony of divorce(s).
      1. Yet some boast that their divorces went great! - “There wasn’t fighting, we agreed on everything & it all went fine.” [Give me 10 minutes with your kids & we’ll see!]
    4. We have talked about the Purity of marriage, now we’ll talk about the Permanence of marriage!
      1. “For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, through sickness or health, while we wait for the promise of His coming or until death do us part!”
        1. And Until death do we part means natural causes! It doesn’t mean you get to take them out! Thou shall not murder is still in there.
    5. Outline: God The Father on Divorce; Jesus on Divorce; Paul on Divorce.
  2. GOD THE FATHER ON DIVORCE! (See Malachi 2:13-16)
    1. Let’s start with God the Fathers heart on the matter.
      1. A marriage covenant involves the husband, the wife & God.
      2. We expect God to be faithful…Why do we think we have the privilege of not keeping our promises?
    2. (13a) The Lord heard the crying from the divorced women.
    3. (13b) The Lord didn’t heed the offerings from the husbands.
    4. (14a) The Lord has been witness – He is witness to our marriage covenant.
      1. Note: not a contract but a covenant(sp.).
        1. Thats why we have witnesses at weddings (both earthly & heavenly)
      2. A Covenant is an agreement made in trust.
      3. A Contract is an agreement made on distrust/suspicion.
      4. In a Covenant the parties love each other and put no limits on their own responsibility.
      5. In a Contract the parties do not trust each other, and they set "limits" to their own responsibility.
      6. Covenant can’t be broken if new circumstances occur.
      7. Contract can be voided by mutual consent.
        1. Many say, “Love keeps a marriage alive”…Wrong! - Marriage keeps love alive!
          1. Remember, love isn’t just a feeling it is a verb, action, it’s doing.
    5. (14b) Treacherously – broke faith, unfaithful. Willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust.
    6. (16a) "For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce!”
      1. And thus says so many families that have gone through it!
      2. He hates divorce – not, I hate the divorced!
        1. We should be happy He hates divorce otherwise we’d have been divorced from Him long ago!
        2. He hates drunkenness, he hates lewdness, he hates them for what they produce!...Ruined lives, loss of faithfulness, collapse of hopes!
    7. Many have said, “I just want it to be over!” - But...IT NEVER IS!
      1. It’s not over it just gets really complicated. You still have a life together; you still have the past life together; maybe children together (which still means seeing each other, dealing with which days, holidays, dropping off kids, etc)
    8. (16b) Covering your garment w/violence? = This reference is to an old custom of putting a garment over a woman to claim her as wife. (we cover their finger w/a ring)
      1. Instead of spreading their garment to protect their wives; they covered their garment w/violence toward their wives.
  3. JESUS ON DIVORCE! (10,11)
    1. ​​​​​​​1st note: “yet not I but the Lord”(10), then “I, not the Lord”(11).
      1. In (10,11) Paul was simply paraphrasing Jesus’ teaching on the subject (Mark:3-12)
      2. In (12-16) Paul is teaching, by Inspiration & Apostolic authority, via the H.S. (i.e. a topic Jesus never taught on)
    2. (11) Remain unmarried - Now there’s a hard doctrine!
      1. Is this for real? Yes!
      2. The disciples of Jesus thought this was a “hard saying!” [Read Mt.19:7-12]
    3. Before I forget to mention it, during the 6 months it takes for a divorce to be final…you are 100% married!
      1. If you do not have the “Certificate of divorcement” (6 x’s in Scrip.) you cannot & should not...be dating, flirting, clubbing, scoping your top 5 pics on Eharmony.com; as you are still married!
    4. Depart – To separate.
      1. The modern idea of separation as “something less than divorce” was totally unknown in those days. – Wherever (χωριζω) appears in the N.T. in connection w/ divorce, it always refers to separation by divorce.
    5. 3 steps to Divorce:
      1. The Bill was written & served; The wife had been sent off; The 2 are now “separated” by the process.
    6. I think the “modern idea of separation” is so popular or accepted today is because it’s often the attitude “well at least we’re not divorced!”
      1. Fishing Analogy – In marriage you’ve landed the fish, “he’s on the boat”. Or, if you’re biblically divorced you’re “released back to the sea”. Modern Separation is like keeping the fish hooked, & releasing the fish to the end of the line, & playing the fish in the water, dancing it on its tail.
        1. Every counselor knows, the way to put people back together is not by taking them apart.
          1. Yes, safety 1st, in domestic violence cases, physical abuse situations, we counsel ladies 1st & foremost to keep them & their kids safe.
          2. Sometimes, a few hours away, or an overnight at a friends (w/no intentions on leaving permanently), or when 1 is violent or confused, may at times be desirable.
            1. So, possible to separate for safety not for a solution!
  4. PAUL ON DIVORCE! (12-16)
    1. ​​​​​​​Unequally Yoked Marriages!
    2. Some Christians in this category have gone against scripture & married someone that was not a Born Again Christian.
    3. Others in this category have become Christians after they were married, & their spouse has not yet become a Christian.
    4. Here the believer consecrates the unbelieving partner.
      1. “It is not the taint of heathenism but the grace of Christianity which wins the victory.” (Barclay)
      2. Christianity should be infectious to all who come in contact with it.
    5. (14) Sanctified…How?
      1. Just as Laban’s household was blessed because of Jacob “And Laban said to him, "Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” (Gen.30:27)
      2. And Potiphar’s because of Joseph “So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field.” (Gen.39:5)
      3. So w/the unbeliever, he/she is set-apart because of God’s presence in the life of the believing partner. (Chuck Swindoll, paraphrased, pg.20)
      4. So, it sounds like Sanctified here, or being Set apart is for blessings sake not necessarily (yet possibly future) for salvation sake.
        1. Like Jeremiah being told to pray for unbelieving Babylon’s peace in Jer.29:7.
    6. Stay together, because by your conversion your whole family has been brought onto praying ground!
      1. ​​​​​​​As a child of God YOU are His vantage point to reach them. Who else on this earth will pray more passionately for them?
      2. Remain married as a “sanctifying” influence in the relationship.
      3. As Malachi said, “He seeks godly offspring!” (2:16)
    7. (15) Here is the only other “escape clause” in Scripture for a Biblical Divorce
      1. ​​​​​​​(i.e. Abandonment…and the other sexual immorality)
      2. Keep in mind, although Scripture “allows” for divorce under certain circumstances, it never encourages it.
        1. “Divorce, the defeat of love, should only be pursued when all other approaches have led to dead ends.” (Chuck Swindoll, pg.20)
    8. Let him depart – You are no longer enslaved/bound to that relationship.
      1. If not under bondage, then they are “free!” (which also means free to remarry)
      2. He/she becomes the “unmarried” of vs.8.
    9. (16) For Paul evangelization began at home!
      1. “The unbeliever was to be looked on, not as something unclean to be avoided w/ repulsion, but as another son or daughter to be won for God.” (William Barclay, pg.64.)
      2. Note: No automatic salvation for all those in the household. As the question asks in the future they “might be led to Christ”?
    10. Do’s & Don’t for leading your spouse to Christ!
      1. Don’ts: Don’t Nag; Don’t drive religion down their throat; Don’t give them a miserable time for not coming to Christ; Don’t make them pay for not converting; Don’t expect them to walk the Christian walk…they can’t!
      2. Do’s: Do be patient; Do be tolerant; Do pray w/all your heart to live in patient love w/ your unbelieving spouse; Do remember Peter’s word “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” Husbands, do what your commanded also, like…
        1. Have love that...Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. 1 Cor.13:4-8 (msg)
    11. Do you treat our divorced or divorcing brothers & sisters, who are hurting, as if they committed the unpardonable sin? Is it unpardonable?
      1. ​​​​​​​Granted if it is unbiblical, I’m surely going to challenge them with God’s Scripture.
      2. Often The Church on the whole has given the straight arm to divorcees.
      3. Remember “Divorce is forgivable!” (if repented of)
      4. Divorced Christians need our love, our embraces, our encouragement, and our time. - Let’s not forsake them!
    12. Marriages are not seamed in heaven to be ripped out on the earth!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Brian Bell Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/1-corinthians-7.html. 2017.