(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 7/19/98 a.m. I Corinthians 7:1-40
PROPOSITION: In a world full of enticing distractions and a continual lust for more, it is so difficult to have an undivided heart, fully devoted to the Lord.
- VACATIONS are times when you get far enough away from what you do the other 340 days a year...that you can see and evaluate what you do more clearly.
- BESIDES that fact that the class that Pastor Ron and I took under Eugene Peterson last May has forced us to look again at the Biblical role of the pastor.
- AND for me this morning, the bottom line is that I must do all I can, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to get you gloriously into the kingdom of God...and ready for heaven.
- IN the process of this task of the pastor, there will be a battle to be fought within himself, and in the lives of the people, on three fronts...the world, the flesh and the devil (Ephesians).
- BUT I will stand before God someday and be accountable for the years that He gives me here at Westgate Chapel....for whether I was faithful to this call.
- REALIZING that it is only the Holy Spirit who can do this work in you and me...but we have to win the war on all three fronts.
- SO, if that takes exhortation, I must exhort. If that takes correction, I must correct. If that takes rebuke, I must rebuke.
- AND I Corinthians 7 is one of those passages that takes aim at the pull of the world.
- IN fact, I Corinthians 7:31b says,
“For this world in its present form is passing away.”
- THE problem is that it is the things and the relationships of this world that Satan will frequently use to pull us away from what is to be our first love.
- WHAT is supposed to be our first love?
- JESUS said that the greatest commandment is this,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
- SO, it is not to spoil our fun, but to prepare us for eternity that John the apostle writes in I John 2:15 (p. 1208),
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For everything in the world-- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. (17) The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (I John 2:15-17)
- DO you see the connection between verse 17 here and verse 31 of our passage in I Corinthians 7 for today?
- IT says,
“For this world in its present form is passing away.” (I Corinthians 7:31b)
- NOW, at first glance, I Corinthians 7 is a chapter on marriage, divorce, and being single....and their are some important instructions on those things in there.
- BUT the very heart of I Corinthians 7 is about loving God with an undivided heart and NOT letting the situation you are in come between you and your pursuit of God.
- WE are going to read the whole chapter, looking for the theme of an undivided heart....then we are going to come back and look at some specific subjects.
- REMEMBER, my task as your pastor this morning, is to help you win the war that rages against your love for God.
- LET’S read I Corinthians 7 (p. 1132).
- THERE are three areas of life covered in this chapter, where you are going to feel the pull of the world to have a divided heart.
- AND the specific pull of the world that I want to address this morning, from I Corinthians 7, is the temptation to greener grass.....as if your real satisfaction will come from having another spouse, a new house, a different job, a new car, a different ministry....anything as long as it isn’t where you are right now.
- AND the enemy’s purpose in it all is to divide your heart from being fully devoted to God.
- HE doesn’t care where you live, or with whom. He doesn’t care what car you drive, what toy you play with, or what new job you have....he just wants to get you forever running after the next illusive dream so as to keep you from having a whole heart devoted to God.
- SO, from this chapter in I Corinthians this morning we will look at three areas of life.
1. The unmarried who want only to be married.
2. The married who want only to be single again.
3. Those of us who will do anything to have a change of scenery any place in our lives.
ii. the unmarried want to be married
- LET’S start with the unmarried who want only to be married, as if it is marriage that will fulfill the longings of their heart.
- REMEMBER, the theme of this chapter is not about marriage, but about divided hearts.
- BUT to the unmarried, Paul says,
1. IT IS GOOD NOT TO MARRY
* “It is good for a man not to marry.” (7:1)
• The Greek word for good is kalos, and it means useful and profitable.
* “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” (7:8)
* “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. (26) Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.” (7:25-26)
* “Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.” (7:27b)
* “....he who does not marry her (virgin) does even better.” (7:38b)
* “In my judgment, she (widow) is happier if she stays as she is-- and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (7:40)
- PAUL is not anti-marriage in these statements.
- HE is living in a time of crisis for the world and for believers.
- HE himself is having to be constantly on the move, fearing most of the time for his life.
- IT would be very hard for him to be caring for a wife and children.
- AND anyhow, what he is telling us is that marriage is NOT the place for you to find your highest fulfillment...but rather in loving and serving God with an undivided heart.
- HE is also telling us that one of the dangers of marriage is that it has the potential for dividing your heart and devotion for God (Tell Brian and Lori Revers story)
- SO, if you are single, you are in a profitable place for having an undivided heart for God.
2. SINGLENESS IS A GIFT OF GOD
- The second thing that Paul says to the single person is that singleness can be a gift of God....so don’t despise it.
* “I wish that all men were as I am (single or widowed). But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (7:7)
3. IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE GIFT, THEN MARRY
- BUT what if being single is NOT your gift in life?
- IT sounds like Paul is building a case against marriage.
- HE isn’t really. He is just going after a divided heart.
- LOOK at verse 2.
* “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” (7:2)
* “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (7:9)
- HERE the source of the divided heart is a culture obsessed with sex...and pushing it in your face everywhere you turn.
- AND in that context, it is increasingly difficult to stay single and pure.
- SO Paul allows that it may be better to marry than be caught in the pull of the immoral world.
4. BUT IT MUST BE A BELIEVER THAT YOU MARRY
- BUT there is a condition if you are going to marry....and it too has to do with a divided heart and life.
- IN verse 39 Paul writes that the widow is....
* “...free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (7:39)
- IF you are going to marry it must be to a believer.
- SO that your family can have an undivided heart.
iii. the married want to be single
- WELL, that was for the single among us who want to be married, as if marriage will be the solution to their heart cry.
- NOW, what about the married who would love to be single again?
- AND this bears a little elaboration.
* There are those who are married and want out of their marriage, period. They want to literally be single again, as if that is where they will find contentment of heart.
* Then there are those who are married, but live unto themselves as if they were single.
- PAUL has several things to say to this heart condition.
1. YOUR MARRIAGE IS A PARTNERSHIP, NOT A SOLO ACT
- LOOK with me at verses 3-5,
* “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. (4) The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. (5) Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (7:3-5)
- ALL through this chapter, you would be amazed at how many times Paul takes great pains to make a husband/wife relationship a partnership....like in verse 4, where he takes the time to address both side of the issue of physical intimacy.
- SO, don’t live under one roof as two separate people (and that is more than physical intimacy).
- YOUR marriage is an equal partnership...in covenant before God.
- DON’T try to live like a single person with your wife/husband.
- IF your marriage isn’t fulfilling, being single again is not your answer....God alone is your answer.
2. THERE IS TO BE NO SEPARATION OR DIVORCE WITHOUT BIBLICAL PROVISION
- HERE is the second instruction for those who are married and want to be something else, with someone else, somewhere else.
- VERSE 10,
* “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. (11) But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” (7:10-11)
- WHEN Paul says, “not I, but the Lord”, He is referring to Jesus’ words on divorce in Mark 10, Luke 16 and Matthew 19:9.
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
- LET’S go back to our passage in I Corinthians 7:27,
* “Are you married? Do not seek a divorce.” (7:27a)
- AGAIN, the answer you are looking for in your life is not going to be found by being single again...but rather in a new love affair with God, who alone can change you and your spouse.
- NOW let’s look at some wonderful things that Paul has to say about the sanctity of marriage, even if only one of the partners is a believer.
- VERSE 12,
3. A MARRIAGE TO AN UNBELIEVER IS HALLOWED GROUND
* “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord) (This doesn’t make it any less binding. Paul is simply saying that there is no Gospel record of the words of Jesus to support this part of the passage, as above) : If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. (13) And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (14) For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (15) But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (16) How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (7:12-16)
- EVEN one believer in a marriage has a sanctifying and saving influence.
- ONE is a majority with God.
- BUT Paul has one more thing to say about marriage....and the singles need to hear this.
- LOOK at verse 27 b.
4. THERE WILL BE TROUBLES TO WORK THROUGH
* “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” (7:27b)
- IT is normal. It is expected.
- SO, hang in there and be fully devoted to God. That is your single most important ingredient for a good marriage....fully devoted to God.
iv. we all want a change of scenery
- LASTLY, Paul speaks to all of us and our drive to.....
* Be whatever we are not at the moment.
* Have whatever we do not have at the moment.
* Be wherever we are not at the moment.
* Do whatever we are not doing at the moment.....as if by changing our jobs, locations, houses, ministries, we will find that illusive fulfillment that can only be filled by God.
- AND in verse 17 Paul says,
1. STAY IN THE SITUATION YOU WERE IN WHEN YOU GOT SAVED SO YOU CAN BE SALT AND LIGHT THERE
* “Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” (7:17)
* “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” (7:18)
* Why? Because, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts.” (7:19)
* “Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. (21) Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you--although if you can gain your freedom, do so. (22) For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. (23) You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (7:20-23)
- COMMENTATOR Barclay tells of slaves who worked extra hours saving every penny they earned to eventually buy their freedom....consumed by the desire to change their lot in life.
- LOOK at verse 24. It makes the third time Paul says the same thing.
* “Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.” (7:24)
2. BUT LIVE IN THAT SCENE WITH AN UNDIVIDED HEART
- NOW, here is the heart of this chapter.
- HERE is the challenge that stands opposed to the divided heart.
- VERSE 29,
* “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; (30) those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; (31) those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (7:29-31)
- VERSE 21,
* “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord. (33) But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife-- (34) and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband. (35) I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (7:32-35)
- I WOULD like to end this message where we started. With the word of Jesus,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
- IF you are single....love the Lord your God with all your heart and NOT the world and NOT marriage.
- IF you are married....love the Lord your God with all your heart and NOT being single inside or outside of your marriage.
- IF you are in a house in Lynnwood, and working at Boeing....the answer for you is to love the Lord your God with all your heart right where you are.
- TIME is short.
- THE call of the Spirit in I Corinthians 7, is for us to have an undivided heart, devoted to God.