Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7 Topic: Marriage and Singleness
I’m terrible at opening gifts, mainly because I’m really hard to buy for. Most of the gifts I receive…I just don’t like. My first Christmas with Jenni’s family was horrible because I hadn’t yet learned how to fake excitement. One by one each family member went to her and worriedly asked, “Did TJ like the gift I got him?”
Needless to say, that didn’t happen the second year. Jenni taught me how to open gifts, “Wow…thank you for this really ugly shirt that I will never, ever wear.” SMILE… “It’s great!”
Now, before you think poorly of ME…ask yourself, Have you ever opened a gift and thought, Wow, what were you thinking!? Ask yourself Have you ever been disappointed with a gift? What about a gift given you by God?
Today we are in 1 Corinthians 7. Specifically we are talking about three different gifts that God might or might NOT give you: Sex, Singleness, and Marriage. 1 Cor. 7:7 describes each of these as gifts: “Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”
As Christians we should view each of these as good gifts given from God to His people for their good. Sex is a gift, singleness is a gift, marriage is a gift.
When it comes to these gifts, some of you are a lot like me, you open your gift and it’s singleness and you say, I think you meant to give this to that person over there…not me! Some of you have been married for several years and right now you’re looking at that gift and thinking, can I get a refund? Is there a return policy or something?.
The point of this sermon today is to get you to look at Jesus Christ and say, I trust you. And if you’ve given me this gift then it must be for my good.
Remember this is a series on right judgments: Our world has judged sex as supreme or marriage as supreme or singleness as supreme. Our disappointment with a gift is that we fear we’ve been given a second rate gift! Yet 1 Cor. 7 comes in and says, those things aren’t supreme, Christ is supreme. You can be content with or without sex. With our without marriage. With or without singleness. But you can not be content without Jesus.
1 Corinthians 7
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided….35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
To the married this morning (or those who will one day be married) I say: Your marriage is a gift:
1. Don’t Waste Your Marriage. – v. 10-11.
1 Cor. 7:10-11 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
God loves marriage. Marriage is not meaningless. It is wonderful and good and honorable and something to be cherished.
The Bible opens with a marriage as God himself presides over the first marriage. The Bible closes with a marriage (Rev. 19) as we see Jesus Himself not presiding but participating in a marriage as He stands ready to receive His bride (the Church).
Marriage is meaningful to God. Your marriage matters to God. Maybe it doesn’t matter to anyone else. Maybe it feels like your parents aren’t invested in your marriage, or your closest friends don’t care if you stay or leave, or it feels like your spouse has given up on your marriage, or perhaps you don’t even care any more. Though the whole world be against your marriage, God is for it!
A. Don’t waste your marriage by not fighting fighting for your marriage.
Six times in this chapter Paul says, “Fight for your marriage!”
I Cor. 7:27 – Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free.
Why does he have to say the same thing over and over again? Because staying together is not natural. Staying together takes hard work. Staying together takes intentionality. We waste our marriage when we stop fighting for our marriage.
Anybody can say, “I do.” It’s the continuing to say I do that really matters.
I hope that you don’t think that my marriage is easy. I hope I’ve never given you that impression. It’s not. It’s great and I love it, but it’s difficult. We argue. We get angry with one another. We sin against one another. We hurt one another.
We have to fight for our marriage. We fight for forgiveness. We fight for alone time. We fight for love and compassion. This May makes 20 years of saying “I do” to Jenni. 20 years of fighting in the power of the Spirit, fighting against the flesh, against Satan, chasing the little foxes that enter the garden.
We are a society that values ease. If something is broken it’s easier to replace it than to repair it. That ideology spills over into our marriages. When things get tough it’s easier to call it quits and try again with someone new, rather than determining to mend that which is broken.
You are wasting your marriage if you’re not fighting for it. Heed the words of Solomon’s bride – (Song of Solomon 2:15): Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
Fight the foxes of affection that could be placed on someone else. Fight the foxes of selfishness that says, “what I want matters more than what my spouse wants.”
Fight the foxes of your time, that you’re not bankrupt on time when it comes to your marriage.
Fight the foxes of unforgiveness, go back and listen again to Pastor Paul’s message on 1 Cor. 6…why not rather be wronged! That simple phrase right there, if we took it to heart, if we began to live it out, would transform most of the marriages in this room.
Fight the foxes of finances that will so quickly put a wedge between you and your spouse.
Fight that foxes of false belief that your spouse is your Savior, your spouse will complete you. Christ and Christ alone completes you. You waste your marriage if you don’t fight for a healthy marriage.
You waste your marriage:
B. by ignoring the power of your presence – v. 14
Marriage is meant to make you holy. Marriage is meant to make your spouse holy. Marriage is meant to make your children holy.
That’s an unbelievable truth if you think about it. In the Old Testament unholiness contaminated holiness.
Haggai 2 says it plainly: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.”
Nature itself teaches us this truth. Take a molded piece of fruit and place it next to a healthy peace of fruit and the bad fruit affects the good fruit every time, not the other way around. But the holiness of Jesus is so powerful, the Spirit of God that is on you is so great that unholiness has no claim on you. In fact, the Spirit in you will often begin to transform the people around you. This is exactly what Paul is getting at here as he discusses YOUR marriage.
As Michelangelo took the chisel to the marble slab and created and the Pieta, so too marriage is the chisel God often uses to mold us and our spouse and our children into the image of Christ.
Do not underestimate the power of marriage, don’t give up on your marriage, don’t think lightly of your marriage.
John Piper calls marriage the school of sanctification. Nothing will knock the rough edges off of your fallen soul like getting married and staying married for fifty years.
But I have to warn you: Don’t waste your marriage:
C. by making marriage ultimate– v. 29.
Here is what Paul is getting at, your marriage will one day come to an end. We pray it’s a glorious end, many long years of faithfulness and forgiveness, a marriage dissolved by death. But whether it’s death or divorce, all marriages will end. Christ is ultimate, not your marriage. Don’t put all your hope on your marriage, put it on Christ. We exalt marriage this morning, but we don’t make it ultimate, which leads me to the second main idea today:
2. Don’t Waste Your Singleness
There are a great many single people who have been told that they can’t be complete or truly happy unless they are married. That’s just not true! Here’s the thinking:
If you’re thirty and single then something must be wrong with you! Either you’re selfish or ugly or just weird! The World may say that or think that, but Christ certainly doesn’t say that!
Here’s the good news for you singles: You serve a single Savior! Who was perfect and not lacking in any way. You serve a celibate Savior who did not consider His human experience “less than” because He never had sex, because He never had children, because He never had a spouse. Listen to Preston Sprinkle, Jesus’ singleness wasn’t a “no to joy, no to sex, no to intimacy…but rather he viewed it as a life-giving yes…yes to relationships, yes to friends, yes to serving others, and yes to enjoying life to the fullest.”
Your singleness right now is a gift, don’t waste it:
A. by having divided devotions/anxieties – v. 34-35
The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
The single life is meant to be a life that spent on advancing the Kingdom, that charges into unknown and difficult territory, that devotes itself to church work, that volunteers for ministries, that fosters community. You can do many things as a single that a married person can not do.
In many ways your finances are freed up to be foolish with your money (in a godly way). If I go on a trip it costs four airline tickets, four mouths to feed, extra beds to pay for, four movie tickets, four amusement park entrances. When you marry all your costs go up! I’m not saying that singles don’t have bills and that they don’t have to budget but I am saying…you don’t have AS MUCH! Your singleness is a gift for you to give generously of your finances. Use this gift well.
In many ways your time is freed up. You can be spontaneous when a crisis arises. If you have vacation time you don’t have to consult a spouse, you don’t have to think about your children, who they will stay with, how they will get to school. You just go. I can’t even plan a lunch without consulting my wife and our schedules. People probably get sick of hearing me say, “let me ask my wife.” But so goes the married life! This is a great time for you….don’t waste your singleness.
Paul imagined a church where singles were anxious about one thing only, “how to please the Lord.” If you’re single, this is your life right now. Your singleness is a gift to the church.
Listen to the words of John Stott speaking of his singleness: Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, I think I know why. I could never have traveled or written as extensively as I have done if I had had the responsibilities of a wife and family.
But here’s the reality, there are many singles that are wasting their singleness by allowing themselves to be distracted…and that is to waste your singleness.
Perhaps you are so obsessed about finding a spouse that you’re not doing the things you COULD do as a single. All your thoughts and energies go into that, so that there’s nothing left over for the Kingdom. That’s to waste your singleness.
Perhaps you’re so obsessed with furthering your career, that you’re not anxious about the things of the Lord.
Perhaps you so obsessed with traveling the world…marking every continent off your passport that you’ve wasted the intentional travel opportunities that are before you, opportunities to carry the gospel to the unreached, opportunities to visit the lonely and sick, to encourage married couples in their homes, to offer to babysit for them, to help start church plants.
Single people can be extremely busy (most are more busy than I am), but are you busy for the Lord? Are you devoting your singleness for the advancement of the Kingdom?
You don’t want to one day get married only to realize that you wasted years of singleness that you’ll never get back.
Now, there are a great many of you who are single who don’t want to be single. You don’t like your singleness. You are extremely lonely. You are extremely frustrated. To you I say, marriage is a good thing, but it will not solve your loneliness. There are a great many married people who are lonely. It will not solve your joy problem. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not a wedding gift for the married.
I was married at 20, what do I know about what you’re going through…Listen to the words of Margaret Clarkson:
My whole being cries out continually for something I may not have. My whole life must be lived in the context of this never–ceasing tension. I must trust him to make it possible for me to honor him in my singleness. That this is possible, a mighty cloud of witnesses will join me to attest. Multitudes of single Christians in every age and circumstance have proved God’s sufficiency in this matter. He has promised to meet our needs and he honors his word. If we seek fulfillment in him, we shall find it. It may not be easy, but whoever said that Christian life was easy? The badge of Christ’s discipleship was a cross.
Paul too knows something about singleness…And Paul over and over again says, Christ is enough, you don’t need a souse to complete you.
Now let me give some of you hope. For many of you singles your singleness is a season that will one day give way to marriage. Paul says, v. 36 – If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.
Paul knows that some of the singles at Corinth will get married. And that’s a good thing. Singleness is good, but so is marriage. Neither is ultimate! If Christ has the gift of marriage in store for you, then look forward to that, in the meantime don’t waste your singleness.
Which leads me to our last topic of discussion: This goes to the married and the single:
3. Don’t Waste Your Sex
Many waste their sex:
A. by casualizing it or obsessing about it– 7:1 –
7:1 – Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
Marriage isn’t ultimate, Singleness isn’t ultimate, Sex is not ultimate, Christ is ultimate!
You are not missing out on life because you abstain from sex. You’re not missing out on life because you’ve committed sexually to one person for the rest of your life. Don’t buy into the lie that sexual expression or sexual experience or sexual variety are necessary for human fulfillment.
The world cheapens sex, it feeds us lies about what it is and isn’t. We soak it in with television, song, literature, crass talk, advertisements, stickers on the sidewalk, banners on the internet, conversation in the workplace. It’s impossible to avoid!
You get fed something long enough and you begin to get an appetite for that thing. I’m reminded of this each time people from the States come and visit our family. I carry them out to my favorite “western” restaurant and they’re not impressed. You call this barbecue? You think this is a good burger? This is Mexican food? And I’m reminded that I’ve eaten sub-par food so long that it’s actually started tasting good.
When you eat at the table of the world don’t be surprised when you get an appetite for the world’s food.
1 Cr. 6:9 addresses most of the issues we have with sex today:
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral (any form of sexual activity before marriage), nor idolaters, nor adulterers (sexual activity with one other than your spouse), nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, sexual immorality, pornography, lust, fantasy, Erotic Romance Novels, masturbation, on and on the list goes…The Bible is clear about sexual sin. The Bible says stand firm, resist the Devil, Fight without giving an inch to the enemy. But with sexual sin God doesn’t say fight, he says flee! Don’t be like Lot’s wife, you flee the danger only to look back and be destroyed.
If statistics are true, one out of every two church goers regularly watch pornography. There are people here addiction to pornography. There ARE people here who pay for sex. There ARE people here who have sex outside of marriage. There ARE people here who engage in same sex activities. There are people here who are regularly engaged with sexting.
There ARE people here who are wasting their singleness and wasting their marriage because they are wasting their sex!
But there’s hope! Listen to 6:11: And such were some of you. Paul says, and here’s the hope…you ONCE were like them…but NO longer!
I’m going to ask you to be brave this morning. Today when our prayer team comes forward a great many of you need to step out in faith and be prayed over and I believe that for some of you the miracle of new desires will take place in your heart today. There are times with God turns off a desire, when God fast-tracks your sanctification. But for most of you today it will be the beginning of a journey to freedom. It will take you getting serious about accountability, honest about your addiction, and real about what it looks like to FLEE sexual immorality. But it starts through confession.
Your sex isn’t just wasted in indulging, it’s also wasted:
B. by ignoring it in marriage – 7:3-4
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Later in this book Paul will say, whatever you do, do it for the glory of God and yes, that includes sex for the glory of God…to delight and thank God for every good and perfect gift that comes from above. The Bible is very specific on this: If you’re married, enjoy the good gift of sex. Read Proverbs 5:18-19, Read The Song of Solomon.
Here are some ways married couples waste their sex:
By using it as a means of reward or punishment. God did not give us sex so we can control the other. What does Paul say? Sex is an act of selfless expression. You don’t have authority over your own body. Let me give a word of warning here. He doesn’t say husbands should take or wives should take, that’s the opposite of what he’s saying. He says, the husband should give…the wife should give. Don’t use this verse to convince your spouse to have sex with you. It’s not addressing your spouse, it’s addressing you.
Be selfless with YOUR body. So often we make sex all about us. We use it for our own advantage…that is to waste your sex! If you crawl into the marriage bed thinking about yourself you waste your sex! When you have sex as a married couple think of Romans 12:10 – Outdo one another in showing honor.
Married couples waste their sex:
By not seeing it as a weapon against Satan. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Sexual temptation comes to us all! Not just to the single. Your sexual cravings don’t disappear because you get married. And we married people must remind ourselves that unholy sexual temptation is a danger for us..and our spouse.
For the married couple God has given us a special weapon to wield against Satan and the flesh. Have sex, have it often! Paul says only stop having sex for a LIMITED time. Celebrate it, enjoy it, and use it to help one another is the struggle against sin.
But let me remind you, marriage is infinitely more than sex. Use it, enjoy it, but don’t make it ultimate. Your marriage is not held together through your sexuality, but through Christ.
So we have three gifts this morning. Sex, Singleness, and Marriage. I don’t know what gift he’s given you, but whatever it is, it is a good gift. Don’t reject your gift. Don’t waste your gift.
Let me end with a warning: when you use it properly, often times the world will try to convince you that you are foolishly wasting your gift.
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?…And they scolded her.
Your sex, your singleness, your marriage is like that alabaster flask. Every time you choose to use it well you are in fact pouring it out for the one who gave it to you. But be careful. There are always scoffers. If you’re 35 and still single (because you’re pouring out your singleness for Jesus) scoffers will look at your life and say, why this waste, get married, have children! If you’re in a marriage and you’re unhappy but you choose to remain in that marriage to fight for that marriage (because you’re pouring out that marriage for Jesus), scoffers will look at you and ask, Why this waste? Get a divorce, get your freedom, enjoy yourself, live life to the full and be happy. If you choose a life of sexual purity scoffers will say, Why this waste? Give in to your desires, give in to who you truly are. To deny yourself is a waste, it’s foolish.
If we’re not careful, we become the scoffer and say to our own gift, it’s a waste. And in that moment you have a choice, will you listen to the scoffers or to Christ?
When the world says, “Why was your sex or singleness or marriage wasted? Jesus responds by saying, “Leave her (him) alone. Why do you trouble her (him)? She (he) has done a beautiful thing to me.
A life poured out for Jesus is never a waste. So go forth and use your gift, your sex, your singleness, your marriage, for the Kingdom.