3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:3–4, NKJV)
One of the biggest sources of marital problems is selfishness. Marriage establishes a moral obligation to deliver (render) to one’s mate the good will of sexual fulfillment which he or she is due. To use the marriage bed as an incentive for good behavior or a punishment for bad behavior is not the will of God. Such selfish treatment of the marriage bed chips away at the emotional and spiritual stability and security it is designed to provide. To be even more emphatic, the apostle explains that in marriage your body belongs to your spouse, not to yourself (verse 4). Each one has authority (right, privilege, jurisdiction) over the other’s body. Such authority is not tyrannical, oppressive or abusive, but respectful and affectionate. When a husband or wife says their body is nobody’s business but their own, they reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of marriage as a hedge against sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). In marriage, your body belongs to your spouse. The marriage bed binds two souls together in unselfish fulfillment, and thereby gives protection from the moral defilement of sexual immorality.
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, NKJV)
The Corinthians sent a letter to the apostle Paul with questions about several matters, to which he replied as one who was inspired of God (1 Corinthians 7:40). Their first questions concerned marriage. Paul began by addressing the virtue of not touching a woman (a euphemism for sexual relations). He was not issuing a divine directive that celibacy is superior to marriage. (Nor does verse 2 demand everyone must marry.) Instead, Paul recognizes God’s clarion call to sexual purity. Given the present trials and pressures upon their faith, he will advise the Corinthians of the advantages of being single (1 Corinthians 7:26, 28, 32, 35). Marriage is designed as a guard against sexual immorality. The marriage bed is honorable, but the bed of fornication is defiled (Hebrews 13:4). The apostle explained that how designed marriage so that “each man” has “his own wife” and “each woman” has “her own husband” (verse 2). Marriage is between man and woman. More specifically, it is between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6). Polygamy, same-sex marriages, and every other marriage distortion is of human origin and is a sin against God and His will concerning marriage.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (Ephesians 5:3, NKJV)
The rise in cohabitation without marriage in America over the past 30 years is obvious. Reflective of a society that has cast off moral restraints, it is but one indicator of self-defined morality. The annual Gallup Values and Beliefs Survey (May 1-10, 2018) reports that 69% of those surveyed believe sexual activity before marriage is morally acceptable, while 42% said it is morally acceptable for teenagers to practice it. The morality of having a baby outside of marriage was approved by 65% of those polled, while 67% said gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable. In stark contrast, the Holy Spirit inspired apostle drew a red line in the sand that all sexual activity, before and in addition to marriage, is not to be professed among Christians. It is against who we are. We are saints (“holy ones”), called to be sanctified or set apart from such sins. We are not to participate in them or endorse them. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Christians must rise above the world’s definition of what is moral and refuse the allurements of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17).
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5, NKJV)
A vow is a solemn, voluntary promise made to God and to others. This reminder to swiftly pay a vow made to God is a rehearsal of the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). The law explained to Israel that God required them to keep the vows they made to Him; failure to do so was sin. No doubt, that is reflected in God having “no pleasure in fools” (those who make vow but do not keep them). This foolish treatment of vows occurs when marriage vows are broken for the most dismissive reasons. “Irreconcilable differences” is often legal code for “I don’t want to be married to this person anymore.” If you are married, you vowed yourself to your spouse before God and witnesses to be joined in marriage “for better and for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, until death we do part.” With such vows made in a God-approved marriage, He binds the husband and wife to each other for life (Malachi 2:14; Matthew 19:4-6; Romans 7:2-3). Take your vows seriously; God does. Keep your vows swiftly. God does not favor fool who do not keep their vows.
20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:20–21, NKJV)
With acute brevity, this passage affirms the primacy of marriage, the place of motherhood, and the value of modesty. Unlike today’s cultural norm, Adam and Eve did not live together before marriage (to see whether they were compatible). According to God’s arrangement, marriage comes first, enjoined by a mutual commitment to live together for life (Genesis 2:22-25). According to God’s arrangement, marriage precedes parentage, not the other way around. Adam named his wife, “Eve,” because she is the “life-giver.” How very contrary to the view that a woman has the right to take the life that is formed within her. Abortion is hostile to woman’s dignity, and to life itself, as well as woman’s role as the life-giver. According to God’s arrangement, mere “coverings” to hide one’s nakedness is not sufficient clothing for the human body (Genesis 3:7). So, He clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin. This clothing provided warmth and protection to their bodies, as well as the necessary apparel to cover the shame of their nakedness (a consequence of their sin, Genesis 2:25; 3:7, 10). The exposure of the body is for one’s spouse, not for the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 7:2-4). The modest person dresses accordingly (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NKJV)
Marriage is a figure of the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-32). Under this figure, we learn how to conduct ourselves toward Christ. And, we learn how God expects us to conduct ourselves in our marriages. Jesus Christ loved the church and sacrificed His life to cleanse and sanctify her (Eph. 5:25-27). His sacrificial love compels the church to eagerly submit to Christ (“the head of the church”) in everything (Eph. 5:23-24). Like Christ, the husband is the “head of the wife,” and is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:23, 25). And, “just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24). Jesus is the great Servant-Leader, who died so His bride, the church, could live. As a husband, you must be a Servant-Leader, serving the best interests of your wife with sacrificial love. And, just as the church adores and honors Christ by following His leadership, the wife is to respect and honor her husband by following his leadership in all things. Such unity of mind and purpose between Christ and His church produces a fulfilled, holy, and eternal relationship (Eph. 5:27). Likewise, marriage thrives when God’s will is followed by the husband and the wife. Husband, love your wife and be the leader God wants you to be in your home. Wife, honor your husband with loving respect.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23, NKJV)
It is quite disheartening to hear gospel preachers teach that Jesus was teaching the Law of Moses to the Jews while He was on the earth. They say this, it seems, to prop up their own false teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage. They say we cannot use Matthew 5 and 19 to know about divorce and remarriage today, because He was teaching Jews how to be good Jews under the Law. But, Jesus was preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” – no plainer, simpler words could describe the content of Christ’s teaching. His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) was the gospel of the kingdom, not a rehearsal of how to keep the Law of Moses. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets (which He did, Matt. 5:17-18; Lk. 24:44-47; Rom. 10:4), not to preach it. The miracles of Jesus did not confirm the validity of the Law of Moses, they confirmed the validity of the gospel Jesus preached. They showed Him to the be Son of God, not the defender of Moses (John 20:30-31). We may – and must – go to what Jesus taught while He was on earth, as well as what His apostles taught after He ascended, to learn His will on “all things that pertain to life and godliness” – including the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage.
14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:14–15, NKJV)
The apostle of Christ glorifies marriage and motherhood; our humanistic society does not. In today’s passage, the marriage of younger widows guards them against sins associated with idleness (gossiping busybodies, 1 Tim. 5:13), and protect them against the slanderous ruin of their godly reputations. Marriage was not developed through the ages by mankind; our Creator gave us marriage in order to populate the planet, and to maintain moral purity (1 Cor. 7:2; Gen. 1:27-28; 2:24-25; 1 Cor. 7:2). Marriage is designed to provide the emotional, material, and spiritual security of a family. The wife who manages her home and raises her children in the ways of the Lord makes immeasurable contributions to this world. God continues to call us back to His ideal for the home. “Let marriage be held in honor among all” continues to be desperately needed (Heb. 13:4, ESV). Some have already turned aside to Satan by disrespecting marriage and motherhood. Let us determine not to be among that number.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18, NKJV)
Every sin we commit begins in the mind (“outside the body”), as Jesus taught in Mark 7:20-23 (see Matt. 5:27-28). Therefore, control the mind; control the body. Sexual immorality (porneia, fornication) is antagonistic to the purpose God gave our bodies –which is to give glory to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). When sexual activity occurs outside of God-endorsed marriage, it is not love; it is dishonorable in His sight. This is God’s judgment, since He said, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Christians are “joined to the Lord,” therefore, we must not join ourselves to a harlot (1 Cor. 6:16-18). Christ calls us to keep our minds and our bodies pure, so that we may serve the Lord in holiness, not moral defilement. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her… 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:12, 15, NKJV)
Some Christians question whether they must end their marriage to an unbeliever, in order to be faithful to Jesus. The apostle applies Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 19:6 – “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” – and answers, “No.” Is the unbeliever is willing to allow the Christian to live his or her faith, do so and bring a godly influence into the home (1 Cor. 7:12-14; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). If that willingness is not present, and the unbeliever sunders the marriage (being unwilling to have his or her spouse to live for Christ, v. 16), the Christian is “not under bondage in such cases.” That is, the Christian is not now, and never has been a slave to the unbeliever (see 1 Cor. 7:23). This verse does not teach another cause for divorce and remarriage, that is, desertion. (Marriage is for life, with one cause for one party to be free to remarry, the cause of fornication, Matt. 19:3-6, 9.) Instead, it teaches the believer that his or her faith is not negotiable – even in a marriage. Do not surrender your faith for the sake of pleasing any person; “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God has called you to be at peace with Him (v. 15). So, do the will of God, not the will of men.