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1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:23
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Today we will be looking at 1 Corinthians 7:1-7. In this chapter, Paul is addressing some questions that came to him from the Corinthian believers. In this chapter he will address marital relations, decisions to marry, remarriage and divorce.
We will only be addressing the first seven verses today, and discuss how this applies to marriage today.
1 Corinthians 7:1–7 NIV
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps 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. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.


The Corinthian church had some real life questions. As we saw in the last chapters, there was a lot of sexual immorality around them, and it was creeping into the church, they wondered if they should just become ascetics.
Greek philosophy which viewed the body as evil and the spirit as good, had led the culture to two extremes: Hedonism and Asceticism. Hedonism is what the culture at large in Corinth embraced. Do what feels good. Just feed the appetites of the body. Asceticism goes the other direction and says don’t indulge the body, nor gratify its desires at all.
Since they knew that the sexual immorality was wrong, there were questions about whether they should embrace Asceticism, and whether they should even encourage marriage.
Paul addressed the sexual immorality just before this, reminding them that they belong to Christ; all of them including their bodies. He reminded them that they belonged to Christ and should not give into sexual immorality.
Now, he addresses the questions about Asceticism and marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:1–3 NIV
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.

Marriage is Good

Paul was honest with the Corinthians when he wrote, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Later in the chapter, Paul explains what he means by this, and we will look at that later. It has to do with Paul’s instructions about being able to focus on serving the Lord. However, as we will see when we get to that portion, he is clear that those who do not have the gifting from God to remain celibate should marry. And that has to do with the concept he introduces here, “But since sexual immorality is occuring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”
God created us, male and female. He created marriage, where a woman is the perfect helpmeet, or compliment for a man. He designed us to be married, and to come together as one. Marriage is a part of Creation, and it is Good! And, what is more, sexual relations between a man and a woman who are married are good!
We see that in the creation account.
Genesis 1:26–28 NIV
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
There is this teaching that came from somewhere in the Catholic church that the first sin was Adam and Eve having sex. Sex was the forbidden fruit.
That is ridiculous. God is the One who after creating them told them to be fruitful and multiply. God is the One who showed Adam the woman was the perfect compliment for him in Genesis 2, to which Adam declared,
Genesis 2:23–24 NIV
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
The two becoming one flesh is a true bond between a man and his wife, and it includes the two becoming one through sexual relations. We saw that in the last chapter.
1 Corinthians 6:16 NIV
Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”
This becoming one flesh is God’s design. Not man’s.
Matthew 19:4–6 NIV
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
As Jesus says, this is a work of God to make them one flesh. God’s design, and God’s working make a man and woman ‘one flesh’.
However, it is not without obedience and work on the part of the man and the woman.
What is Adam did not take Eve when God gave her to him? They would not have been one flesh.
The man and the woman have a role to play. That role is to live in obedience to the Lord, and to give themselves to one another.
That is what Paul is speaking of here in 1 Corinthians 7.
1 Corinthians 7:3–4 NIV
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.
Marriage is good, by God’s design, so Paul is letting the Corinthians know that they should not just strive to be Ascetics. They should live in the grace and design that God gave when he gave us marriage. That is one way to avoid the sexual immorality in the world.
However, though Marriage is good, Marriage is also hard isn’t it?

Marriage is Hard

Why is that? The obvious answer is because of sin. Everything that God made was good. In fact, after He created man and blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply, it was very good! Marriage was, at Creation at least, very good!
Then why are marriages falling apart all around us? Why are our marriages so hard?
Again, the obvious answer is because of sin. We saw the perfect marriage and Adam and Eve fall apart when they disobeyed God. Adam was blaming Eve, Eve was blaming the snake, and the consequences for their sins were strife in the marriage. In fact, God told Eve that there would be strife in the Marriage as she desired her husband, and he ruled over her. I believe that is speaking of the striving to be in his role, and him abusing his role. Sin, disobeying the Lord and His design for marriage is what makes marriage so hard.
But what specifically makes marriage so hard? I think the difficulty comes in verse 4 here.
1 Corinthians 7:4 NIV
The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

Marriage Requires Love

You may ask, where does the verse say that? I see it in the yielding to one another; considering and giving to one another.
You see, we are raised in a culture of self-love. We are trained from a very young age that it is all about us. And, our flesh--that is what the Bible calls our own selfish desires—our flesh eats it up! We become very focused on our desires, our likes, our dislikes, our thoughts, our ways, our points of view, our satisfaction.
We are our own bosses. You cannot tell me what to do! You aren’t the boss of me! There is not consideration of the other person. It is about me and my rights!
When we eventually fall in love, it is because this person is so wonderful! What we mean by that is they make me feel good. They do things the way I like. They say things I like. This is exemplified in a story about Chris and Sarah told by Paul Tripp, in his book, Marriage: 6 Gospel Commitments Every Couple Needs to Make.

Sarah met Chris during her last year of college. She remembers the moment very well. She was leafing through her mail in front of the bank of mailboxes near her dorm. He walked up to talk to the person next to her. It was an embarrassing but fateful moment. Sarah was so distracted by Chris that she dropped most of her mail at his feet. They both spontaneously bent down to pick up the mess and bumped heads. Then, laughing at what happened, they said hello and began to talk. Sarah said she was taken by what a beautiful human being Chris was. He was tall and handsome and didn’t seem to take himself too seriously. They decided to get together later that week for coffee. Sarah was blown away when, in that first conversation over coffee, she realized that Chris was a Christian and, like her, had been raised in the Midwest. He was talkative, and she was the type who loved to listen. He was athletic, and she loved the outdoors. He loved good food, and she loved to cook. He loved movies, and so did she. He was from a small town, and so was she. He liked coffee—what else could she ask for?

It seemed so perfect. Their times together were comfortable and easy. This was the man Sarah had been searching for. Chris fit her life like a glove. He was physically attractive, fun to be with, spiritually in tune, and seemed like a guy who was going somewhere. Sarah couldn’t be with Chris enough, and it wasn’t long before she was making mental plans for their future. She knew Chris was the one, and she was going to make sure she would not lose him.

Chris liked the fact that Sarah and he had similar backgrounds. He felt she would have a natural sense of “where he was coming from.” He liked the fact that Sarah was decisive. This was a woman who knew what she wanted. He liked the fact that there weren’t many surprises with Sarah. She said what she thought and what she wanted. With a common background, shared interests, and that all-important spiritual connection, it seemed that Sarah really could be the one. Chris was in no hurry, but he really did like Sarah, and she seemed ready to make a lifelong commitment any time.

So six months later, on a cold winter afternoon, Chris popped the question. Sarah was in a daze with joy and managed to say yes about thirty-four times before Chris gave her the kiss of her life. Immediately Sarah began to make plans. She knew just what their wedding should be like and just the kind of house they would need to live in. She told Chris that he needed to find a job in a small town so that they could experience together the life they had both enjoyed growing up. Chris thought it was funny that Sarah was so focused and driven, and he teased her about planning their entire life in about three days.

They married the day after graduation, moved to small-town Ohio, and began their life together. Children and promotions came quickly, but their relationship quit being comfortable. Chris worked long, hard hours and spent most of his evenings and weekends exhausted. He didn’t have much free time, but he loved hunting, fishing, and golfing with his friends. He also loved blogging and keeping up every day with the blogs that he had become hooked on. Chris wasn’t very domestic. It wasn’t that he refused to help. No, what began to bother Sarah was that he never volunteered to help.

Sarah loved her three children, but it was hard work. She felt that she had less and less time with her friends and that Chris and she had little time together. She also resented the fact that Chris seemed to think that the entire house was her job. She always had a list of projects for him to complete, but he took his good time getting around to them. Sarah felt that she had a house guest instead of a husband, and Chris felt that he had a home superintendent instead of a wife. Chris was growing tired of Sarah’s demands, and Sarah was done with feeling that she lived alone.

Both Sarah and Chris couldn’t help wondering what had happened. It all seemed so easy and so perfect. It had seemed as though their dreams were coming true. How did they end up in such a discouraging mess? There is but one answer to this question. It is hard to accept but vital to face. Sarah and Chris had a major love drought in their marriage because very early in their relationship they had confused faux love with true love.

It was devastatingly hard for Sarah to admit it, but she finally did: she had married Chris not because she loved him but because she loved herself. Physical attraction, emotional connection, and cultural and spiritual unity were what drew her in. She was drawn to Chris because he was everything she had ever wanted for her life. Her attraction to him was powerful and compelling. He could not have fit more perfectly into Sarah’s dream for her life. Sarah’s attraction to Chris was all about what Sarah wanted for Sarah. What masqueraded as love wasn’t love.

It was also hard for Chris to admit that he had been drawn to Sarah because she made things so easy. She seemed to like Chris for who he was, and she made all the plans for him. Chris was able to coast his way into a great relationship; he thought he had hit the jackpot! But he didn’t get married because he loved Sarah in the true sense of what that means. No, Chris loved what Sarah did for him and his life. Faux love wore the mask of true love, and Chris had been completely fooled.

The lack of unity, the constant misunderstandings, the distance and separation between them, the lack of physical intimacy, and the catalog of regular conflicts were screaming loud and clear that what was missing in Chris and Sarah’s marriage was love—real, other-centered, self-sacrificing love.

Things began to go wrong when their relationship quit being self-satisfying and the need for other-serving became dominant. When the hard work, which faithful love requires, began, Chris and Sarah got discouraged and began pointing fingers of blame. The sad reality that they had to face and confess was that their relationship had not been built on a foundation of love. It had been built on the weakest and most impermanent of relational foundations—self-focus and self-love.

They had never really considered the hardship of a flawed person living with a flawed person. They had never considered the daily and costly sacrifices that are necessary to make a long-term marriage work. They didn’t think about what they were being called to give to one another. No, what occupied their minds was what they were being given by the other. So their marriage was doomed to fail, because there is no such thing as a good marriage that is not fueled by love, and there is no such thing as love that does not require personal sacrifice. Selfish ambitions and unrealistic expectations had set them up for the discouraging moment that they were now in.

And so, in their marriage, it was a cold war. Each went about their business and gave the other space. But when there was an irritation of any kind, it would become a big argument. Each accused the other. Each had their defense and their attacks. Each knew how to get the other. So, one would withdraw, and the other would keep hounding, until it went back to the cold war. Things may look good on the outside, but on the inside of the marriage, there was no Real love. Only, self-love, wanting, and hating the other person for not giving.

Marriage Requires Real Love

Real love is not getting, but giving. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 7:4, it is not about self-love, or having self-autonomy. It is about giving to the other person. Real love is not self-focused, but other focused.
Real love is defined for us in 1 Corinthians 13, just a little later in this same book.
1 Corinthians 13:4–8 NIV
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
This is Real love. Real Love knows that the other person is a sinner, and is patient. Real love knows that the other person, being a sinner, is going to act unkindly, but responds with kindness. Real love does not envy when the other person gets to go out and do something, while they are stuck at home, or at work. Real love does not boast and gloat over the other person when they were wrong about something. Real love is not proud, and self-focused.
Real love does not dishonor the other. Real love is not self-seeking, but considerate of the other. Real love is not easily angered. Real love forgives. I mean real forgiveness that does not keep a record of wrongs. This is so common in marriage isn’t it? To bring up the past as if it were the present? To bring up all of the past wrongs when they were supposedly forgiven?
Real love delights in truth!
Real love will not fail!
Real love is the opposite of self-love. It is not seeking after its own gratification, but the gratification of the other. This is not just about the marriage bed, but about marriage. Then, when there is real love in the marriage, there will be real love in the marriage bed, and there will be one flesh. A true unity, and marriage will be good, again.

Marriage is Good and Hard, requiring Real Love

Marriage is Good! Marriage is Hard, and take work. It requires obedience to the Lord.
It requires obedience when He tells us to love one another.
It requires obedience when He tells us to submit to one another.
It requires obedience when He tells us to consider the other over ourselves.
It requires obedience when He tells us to give ourselves to one another.
It requires obedience to lay down our lives for one another.
Marriage is Good and Hard. Marriage is Good when we live in obedience, but it takes Hard work to get there, and to stay there! It requires Real Love, Love as Jesus demonstrated for us.
Ephesians 5:21–33 NIV
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Christ Our Example of Real Love
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)
just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
What about you? What about your marriage? Is it Good? Is it Hard? Is there Real Love? Or, are you guilty, as I am, of living in self-love rather than Real Love?
Do selfish desires rule in your heart?
Are you more interested in what the other person is doing wrong than looking at yourself?
Are you saying that your forgive, yet holding onto resentment and bringing up the past over and over?
Are you selfishly making decisions or looking for decisions that feed your desires rather than what is best for the marriage?
It is time to lay down our old selves. It is time to crucify the selfish desires of our flesh, and to put on the new nature, Christ’s nature, of Real Love that considers the other, seeks to please them, and lays down oneself for them.
Let’s take a moment to confess our self-love for what it is, sin; flagrant sin from people who in Christ should know better.
Let’s take a moment to ask the Lord to change our hearts to be like His, and to begin giving ourselves to the other.
Let’s commit to finding tangible ways to Make our Marriage Good by doing the Hard work of showing Real Love this week.
Now, let’s remember Christ, our example of Real Love and the Hard work it takes, and thank the Lord for Him.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
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