Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 15 Feb. 2008
1. Now concerning things which y’all wrote:
It is good for a man not to attach himself to a woman,
2. but, on account of the immoralities
let each man have his own wife,
and let each woman have her own husband.
3. Let the husband deliver the obligation to the wife,
and likewise also the wife to the husband.
4. The wife does not have authority over her own body,
but rather the husband does.
And likewise the also the husband does not have authority over his own body,
but rather the wife does.
5. Do not continue to deprive each other
it is by common consent
for an appointed time
in order that you might have leisure for prayer,
then you continue again in unity
in order that Satan might not be tempting you
through your being uncontrolled.
6. Now I say this by way of permission, not by way of command.
7. Yet I wish all men to be as also I am,
but each has his own gift from God,
this on the one hand and this on the other.
8. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows:
it would be good for them if they were to remain as I also am,
9. but if they are not controlling themselves, let them get married,
for it is better to marry than to be burned.
10. Now to those who have been married, I exhort – not I but rather the Lord –
a wife not to be separated from a husband.
11. But if she has already been separated,
let her remain unmarried
or be reconciled to her husband.
Also a husband is not to dismiss a wife.
12. And to the rest I say – I not the Lord –
if any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is pleased to make a home with him,
let him not dismiss her.
13. And if any wife has an unbelieving husband and he is pleased to make a home with her,
let her not dismiss her husband.
14. For the unbelieving husband has been made holy by his wife
and the unbelieving wife has been made holy by the brother
(otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy).
15. But if the unbelieving man divorces himself, let him be divorced;
in this the brother or sister has not been bound,
yet it is in peace that God has called us.
16. For what have you known, wife, if you will save your husband,
or what have you known husband, if you will save your wife?
17. Whether or not, as the Lord has apportioned to each – as God has called each
thus he should keep walking
and thus I order in all the churches.
18. Anyone called after being circumcised should not should re-cover himself;
anyone called in uncircumcision should not be circumcised.
19. The circumcision is nothing
and the uncircumcision is nothing,
but rather it’s [about] keeping the commands of God.
20. Each, in the calling in which he was called – in this, let him remain.
21. Were you a slave when you were called?
Don’t let it bother you, but rather, even if you are able to become free, rather employ yourself.
22. For the slave who was called by the Lord is the Lord’s free-man;
likewise the freeman, when called, is Christ’s slave.
23. Y’all were shopped-for with value;
stop becoming slaves of men.
24. In that to which he was called, brothers – in that – let each remain, alongside God.
25. Now concerning virgins, I don’t have an order from the Lord, but I am going to give advice
as one who has been treated mercifully under the Lord - in order to be faithful:
26. Therefore I think this would be a good thing to begin on account of the current necessity,
that it would be good for a man to be like this:
27. Have you been bonded to a wife? Stop seeking an annulment;
Have you been released from a wife? Stop seeking a wife.
28. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned,
and if a virgin does get married she has not sinned,
but these will have stress in the flesh, and as for me, I am going easy.
29. Brothers, the appointed time has been shortened.
As for the rest, I’m bringing this up in order that:
even those having wives might be like those not having [wives],
30. and those who weep like those who are not weeping,
and those who rejoice like those who are not rejoicing,
and those who shop like those who do not own [anything],
31. and those who use this world like those who are not making absolute use,
for the order of this world is passing away.
32. Now, I want you to be free from cares.
The unmarried man cares about the things of the Lord –
how he may please the Lord,
33. but the married man cares about the things of the world –
how he may please his wife, 34. and his [attention] is divided.
Both the unmarried woman and the virgin cares for the things of the Lord
in order that she might be holy in the body and in the spirit,
but the married woman cares about the things of the world –
how she may please her husband.
35. Now, I am saying this toward the bearing together of your own selves,
not in order to throw a lasso on you,
but rather toward your good order and good service in the Lord without being yanked around.
36. But if someone thinks [it tends] to disorder his virgin,
if she happens to be of age
and [if] it ought to become thus,
let him do what he wants; he is not sinning – let them marry!
37. But a firmly-seated man who has been standing firm in his heart,
not having [a condition of] necessity,
but he has authority concerning his own will,
and he has rendered judgment on this in his own heart
to keep his own virgin, he will do well.
38. Thus both the one who gives his own virgin in marriage does well,
and the one who does not give in marriage will do better.
39. A wife has been bound for however much time her husband may live,
but if the husband happens to fall asleep [die],
she is released to whomever she wants to be married – only in the Lord,
40. but she is happier if she remains thus [released],
by my advice – and I suppose I also have the Spirit of God.
A) Answer #1: Yes, you can marry, and here’s how you can enjoy it:
1. v.2 – Get married if immorality is a problem.
2. v.2 is that it is between one man & one woman. “Each man should have his own wife, and each wife should have her own man.”
3. v.3 “deliver the obligation” / “fulfill his [marital] duty” Allusion to Exodus 21:10 outlining the basic responsibilities a husband had toward his wife: “food, clothing, and love.”.
4. In v. 4, a married man or woman must submit their bodies to be governed according to what our spouse wants and Take responsibility with our spouse’s body.
5. “Stop depriving one another” (the only exception being a prayer-retreat for a limited time)
B) ANSWER #2 “Yes, you can stay single and benefit from it!”
1. Being single is “Good”
2. Our marital status is a GIFT (v.7)
A) The main command: Do not get divorced (vs 10-11)
· Marriage is good and is worth preserving!
B) Two Exceptions: (vs. 11ff)
· to those who have already gotten divorced: Remain unmarried & Reconcile:
· to those who might be abandoned by a non-Christian spouse (vs. 12-16), the believer can let the unbeliever go peaceably and then be free to remarry.
1) Circumcision (vs. 18-20)
· You have a unique set of ethnicity and experiences that God wants you to use to spread the Gospel to others like yourself. This is part of your gifting and calling. Don’t run away from these things in your past, rather use them for God’s glory!
2) Slavery (vs.21-24)
· Paul encouraged slaves to obey their masters. If you were called – if you became a Christian – while a slave, then don’t let it bother you to remain a slave.
· Most modern American commentators and translations render the last part of v.21 as saying that if you can gain your freedom you should do that instead of remaining a slave.
· However, other Bible commentators, such as the Greek church father Chrysostom, Henry Alford – dean of Canterbury in the late 1800’s (almost two generations after the abolition of slave trade in England), as well as the Scottish Presbyterians Jameison Fausset, and Brown who also wrote their commentaries in the late 1800’s, as well as Gordon Clark, who wrote a couple of generations after the abolition of slavery in America, all say that the second half of verse 21 tells slaves to prefer to remain slaves and use their slave status for God’s kingdom – even if it is in their power to gain their freedom. I am inclined to agree because this fits the message of this passage, “Remain in the position in which you were called.”
3) Marriage (vs. 25-28)
· If you are married when you become a Christian, by all means, stay married!
· Paul also encourages people who were unmarried when they became a Christian to seriously consider remaining single in light of “the present distress/crisis/necessity”
· But the point is to keep walking in the way that God called you.
A) External Circumstances and Stress “Necessity/Distress/Crisis” Persecution from non-Christians is not a valid reason to get divorced, but it is a valid reason to delay marriage.
B) The temporary nature of this world (vs. 29-31) “The Time is Short” Marriage, Human Life, & possessions will all end. Whatever we do with them must contribute to God’s eternal purposes.
C) The Distracting Cares/Responsibilities of this world (vs. 32-35)
1. A married man is responsible to provide food, shelter, and love to his wife.
2. Unmarried people, it says in v.32 are more free to care for the things of the Lord.
3. We need to unclutter our lives to have more time and energy to devote to God.
A) Avoiding disorderly conduct,
B) Being of-age,
C) Appropriateness of the marriage,
D) Parental permission,
E) Marrying “in the Lord” and Until death do you part.
I) Opening Illustration: John of Montecorvino
Around the year 1300, John of Montecorvino was one of the first European missionaries to reach China. He had to travel a much greater distance by boat to get to China than Columbus travelled to get to America two hundred years later. It was such a difficult journey that his travelling companion died along the way. John baptized 100 people in India then made the long, arduous journey to Beijing, China. There he learned the language, translated the New Testament, witnessed to tens of thousands of people, including the emperor, built two monasteries, and cared for 150 children who lived under his roof. He wrote a letter to the Pope at the age of 58, reporting on his progress and asking for helpers. Of the seven helpers sent to him, three died along the way due to the hardships of travel in those days. This sort of calling was not the sort of thing that a married man could do well. He did it all as a single man – a Dominican friar. Even hundreds of years later, missionaries like William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and John Paton who brought wives with them to the mission field lost their wives pretty quickly in the hardships of travel and foreign life. What does it take for a person like John of Montecorvino to know if he is cut out for life as a single? Paul gives four decisive factors in I Cor. 7:37:
II) 4 Decisive Factors for Singleness
A) “stand steadfast/firmly established/settled in heart/mind”
is a transition here from v.36 “what he wishes let him do… let them
to v.37 “he who has stood fast in his heart… to keep his own virginity/his own virgin”
2. The subject, “he who is steadfast, firm, and immovable” comes from a Greek word that means “to sit.” On this issue he is firmly-seated, and nothing is going to budge him.
3. ILLUSTRATION: I was working on a leaky faucet a couple of weeks ago. I figured the leak was a worn-out valve-seat - a little rubber ring - that would need to be replaced. There were some little thumb threads under the handle of the sink, so I figured I could unscrew it there to take the valve apart and replace the valve-seat. I tried unscrewing it by hand, but it wouldn’t budge. No problem; I got out my channel-locks and gave it a torque. Still it wouldn’t budge. I gripped those pliers harder and gritted my teeth and really gave it a crank. The little thumb threads stripped into metal filings around the sink, but the thing would not unscrew for me! It was firmly-seated, steadfast, immovable. I ended up having to install a whole new sink fixture because I could not change that old valve!
4. The Verb here is the Perfect tense of the Greek word for “stand,” implying that an idea entered his “heart/mind” some time ago, and it has not changed with time. It remains “established,” the matter has been “settled” for some time in his mind.
5. Application: The first decisive factor mentioned by Paul here in favor of choosing celibacy is a deeply-seated, time-tested conviction.
6. John of Montecorvino did not start his career as a missionary. He started out as a soldier. As best I can tell, he remained single through his career as a soldier; he knew what it took, and he knew that he was cut out to take the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth! Men like him are a marvelous example of steadfastness.
B) “Having no necessity/constraint/compulsion”
1. This is the same word Paul used in v. 26 to describe the “current necessity/crisis/distress” It indicates some kind of lack that limits your options.
2. There may be outside pressures such as persecution or a war that call for delaying marriage, but a lifelong commitment to stay single should not be made as a result of outside factors, but should be a conviction from within your heart.
3. The decision to remain single should not come from people pressuring you to do so. “We should not be swayed by other peoples opinions or criticisms.” (Thistleton)
4. Likewise, from the perspective of a father, (As I said last week, I believe this passage could speak just as well to virgins as well as to their parents) outside forces should not be the reason you marry your son or daughter off.
(a) Just because you are running low on money does not mean that it’s time to marry your daughter off in order to get a dowry and have one less mouth to feed,
(b) or in our culture, just because you can’t afford to pay for a wedding is not a good reason to withhold your blessing if it’s best for your daughter to marry.
(c) Most of us have not experienced that kind of poverty, but it is estimated that this year alone about a million fathers will sell a child into slavery worldwide.
(d) If a daughter and her parents have agreed upon a course of singleness for her, they must have the fortitude to resist the temptation to change course when external circumstances get bad.
C) “Having power/authority/control over his own will/desire”
1. Speaking to fathers, this phrase in v.37 speaks literally of having authority.
(a) In chapter 9, Paul will use this word to describe the authority that he could have exercised as an apostle to call Christians to give him their tithe-money so he could minister full-time without getting an extra job. He had the authority to do that as an apostle.
(b) Likewise, a father has a place of authority in his daughter’s life. She is not under the authority of her pastor or her boyfriend or anybody else. The father, as a proper authority, should be involved in her decision-making. If he is not supportive of a choice of celibacy, it would be wise not to set your heart against him on that course.
2. This word “authority/power” also parallels the word in v.36 that considered whether the marriage “must be/has to be/ought to be.”
(a) Here the question could be worded, “Do you have the authority to do as you please when it comes to deciding that you will remain single?”
(b) This applies to the virgin under consideration: In many cultures, a daughter isn’t free to decide who she wants to marry; she doesn’t have the authority to make that decision.
(c) Conversely, I have met men who are the only male descendent in their family able father children, and they felt a sense of obligation to their family to marry and carry on the family name.
3. The most common interpretation of this phrase, however, focuses on self-control.
(a) Do you have enough strength of authority over your own desires to keep walking free from sexual sin if you decide to live a celibate life?
(b) If no, then v.9 applies – better to marry than to burn!
(c) But if the answer is Yes, I have had both the steadfast desire to serve God as a single and I have the authority and self-discipline to do it, then God may use you to do some great task in your lifetime or to protect others by serving in some dangerous field.
So far we’ve looked at 3 decisive factors concerning a choice to remain single: 1) Do you have a track record of consistency? 2) Are there outside factors that would keep you from doing it? and 3) Do you have the authority and willpower to follow through? The fourth has to do with how well thought-through the decision is:
D) judged/determined/decided in his heart (NIV “made up his mind”)
1. The last occurrence of this Greek word was at the beginning of chapter 6 where it was used to describe the work of a judge in a civil court.
2. It was also used in chapter 5 to describe the process of judging whether or not a person’s actions were consistent with Christianity and making decisions about church discipline.
3. And in 2:2, Paul said that he had been through a similar deliberative and decisive process and arrived at the conclusion that he would “know nothing among [the Corinthians] but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
4. This same kind of deliberation ending in a decisive conclusion – like a judgment handed down at the end of a trial – is what parents and their adult children need to go through before settling upon a life of singleness.
5. During my years as a missionary recruiter, I travelled around the country attending missions conferences. One of the things that made me a little worried was the way that so many conferences would ramp up over a couple of days to a tremendous level of intensity until you had all these sleep-deprived college students standing out of their seats singing at the top of their lungs and then they would be socked in the gut with the heart-wrenching needs of the world and a powerful altar call to dedicate their lives as missionaries. Of course, they would come streaming down the aisle. However, over time, I realized that only half of them might actually end up going on a short-term mission trip, and only 10% would land on the mission field as a career path, and half of those would come back home within 4 years because they couldn’t hack it on the field. Becoming a missionary is a great thing, but it is not a decision that should be done on the spur of the moment. Likewise, the decision to live a single life shouldn’t be a snap conclusion based upon an emotional appeal.
III) EXHORTATION TOWARD CELIBACY (V.38)
A) Paul upholds marriage in this chapter and never demeans it
1. v.2 “Let each man have his own wife…”
2. In v.5 he instructs married couples “not to deprive” each other
3. In v.7 he implies that marriage is a “gift” from “God”
4. v.10 “a wife must not separate from her husband” nor a husband from his wife
5. v.17 calls marriage a “calling” from “God” in which couples should “continue walking”
6. v.28 “even if you marry [unadvisedly], you still have not sinned”
7. v.36 “let them marry!”
8. v.38 “the one who gives his own virgin in marriage does well”
9. As Thistelton put it well, Paul rejected “unqualified ascetism in favor of practical considerations… Paul not only adopts an anti-ascetic stance towards the Corinthian ascetics, but is also concerned pastorally to release those who wish to marry from any sense of sin, failure, or second-class status. He refuses to allow the voluntary ascetics to regard themselves as a spiritual elites. God’s demands remain diverse for different people in different situations.”
B) Yet Paul encourages the Corinthians who are unmarried to remain single
1. v.37 “he that keeps his virgin (does not marry her off) will do well.” (He uses the same word “well/good” to commend singleness in vs.1, 8, and 26.)
2. v.38 “He who does not give her in marriage will do better”
3. v.40 “she is happier if she remains thus”
(a) The last condition that Paul described was that of a woman being released from the bonds of marriage by her husband’s death. “She will be happier if she remains” free.
(b) However, in 1 Timothy, he encourages widows under age 60 to re-marry! v.11 “But refuse younger widows [requests for financial support in return for service to the church]: for when they have grown lustful away from Christ, they desire to marry; and they get condemnation, because they have rejected their first pledge. Moreover they also learn to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for reviling: for already some have turned aside after Satan.”
C) Why does Paul encourage toward singleness?
1. It is “good” (v.1, 8, 26, 37)
2. It was Paul’s choice in life:
(a) 7. “I wish all men to be as also I am…”
(b) 8. “I say to the unmarried and to the widows: it would be good for them if they were to remain as I also am.”
(c) As a married man myself, I recommend married life, it’s only natural to recommend your way of life when you’re happy with the situation God has put you in!
3. God gives it to some as a “gift” and a “calling”
(a) vs. 7b “but each has his own gift from God,”
(b) 17. “as the Lord has apportioned to each – as God has called thus he should keep walking”
(c) If God has called and gifted you to live as a single person, it is for you to receive that gift and walk in that calling!
4. There are circumstances that will be hard on married people:
(a) 26. “I think this would be a good thing to begin on account of the current necessity”
(b) 29. “the appointed time has been shortened… 31b order of this world is passing away”
5. Singleness is an easier life with fewer responsibilities and more freedoms
(a) 28b “will have stress in the flesh, and as for me, I am going easy”
(b) 32. “Now, I want you to be free from cares. The unmarried man cares about the things of the Lord – how he may please the Lord…”
(c) v. 34. “…the unmarried woman and the virgin cares for the things of the Lord in order that she might be holy in the body and in the spirit”
(d) 40. “but she is happier if she remains thus” [released]
6. Paul never commands singleness, though. He is offering advice, but it is Spirit-led advice as v.40 bears out. The way Paul turns that last phrase “I think I also have the spirit of God” is perhaps a bit of wry humor aimed at the false teachers who had derailed the Corinthians on this subject of marriage and who had claimed to be teaching under the authority of the Spirit.
7. Calvin: “The sum of the whole discussion amounts to this — that celibacy is better than marriage, because it has more liberty, so that persons can serve God with greater freedom; but at the same time, that no necessity ought to be imposed, so as to make it unlawful for individuals to marry, if they think proper; and farther, that marriage itself is a remedy appointed by God for our infirmity, which all ought to use that are not endowed with the gift of continency.”
8. Is God calling you or your children to a life of single service to Him? Don’t miss out on a special gift; judge wisely. Consider the call of Paul the Apostle & of John of Montecorvino:
IV) Closing: The Letter of John of Montecorvino to the Pope
In this mission I abode alone and without any associate for eleven years… I have built a church in the city of Cambaliech, in which the king has his chief residence. This I completed six years ago; and I have built a bell-tower to it, and put three bells in it. I have baptized there, as well as I can estimate, up to this time some 6,000 persons… Also I have gradually bought 150 boys, the children of pagan parents, and of ages varying from seven to eleven, who had never learned any religion... Also I have written out Psalters for them, with thirty Hymnaries and two Breviaries. By help of these, eleven of the boys already know [how to lead our worship] service, and form a choir and take their weekly turn of duty… whether I am there or not. Many of the boys are also employed in writing out Psalters and other things suitable. His Majesty the Emperor moreover delights much to hear them chanting. I have the bells rung at all the canonical hours, and with my congregation of babes and sucklings I perform divine service, and the chanting we do by ear because I have no service book with the notes. Indeed if I had had but two or three comrades to aid me 'tis possible that the Emperor Cham would have been baptized by this time! I ask then for such brethren to come, if any are willing to come, such I mean as will make it their great business to lead exemplary lives… As for the road hither I may tell you that the way through the land of the Goths, subject to the Emperor of the Northern Tartars, is the shortest and safest; and by it the friars might come… in five or six months. The other route again is very long and very dangerous, involving two sea-voyages… But, on the other hand, the first-mentioned route has not been open for a considerable time, on account of wars that have been going on… As far as I ever saw or heard tell, I do not believe that any king or prince in the world can be compared to his majesty the Cham in respect of the extent of his dominions, the vastness of their population, or the amount of his wealth. Here I stop.
Dated at the city of Cambalec in the kingdom of Cathay, January 8, in the year of the Lord 1305. (Source: Internet Medieval Sourcebook www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/corvino1.html)
Order of Worship 15-Feb-09 (NASB)
2 Thess 2:13-14 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (14) It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 & I Timothy 3:16
1Jn 1:5-2:2 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
What Can Wash Away my Sin?
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Now I Belong to Jesus
1 Corinthians 7:37-40 "Decisive Principles Regarding Singleness"
Soul Adorn Yourself with Gladness
Mard 14:22-26 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
I Love you, Lord
Job 1:10 May the Lord make a hedge about you and your house and all that you have on every side. May He bless the work of your hands and increase you in the land!