37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:37–41, NKJV)
Christians can yield to the temptation to throw out sober-minded faithfulness at moments of uncertainty, difficulty and disagreement. Fear and doubt can motivate unwholesome and ungodly words and actions. We must exercise self-control in all things (1 Corinthians 9:25; Titus 2:1-8). The abiding presence of the Savior is a calming influence over the fear of uncertainty and the passion of over-heated emotions. Jesus is watching, and this should temper unwise and sinful words and deeds. The promises we have in Jesus soothe our souls, invigorate our hope and help us patiently endure moments of trial (Hebrews 6:13-20). Christ’s power overcomes the storms of life with peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). The assurance of peace we have in Christ frames and fashions faithful conduct in the midst of doubt.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8–9, NKJV)
After affirming the value of both marriage and celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Paul gives divine counsel to those who are not married and those who are (as well as to subgroups of each) in 1 Corinthians 7:8-16. To the “unmarried and to the widows” Paul rehearsed the benefit of remaining single while exercising self-control against fleshly temptations. (Recall the context of “present distress” that further explains his divine advice, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40). It seems plausible that they had asked Paul whether a person should marry at all (7:1). He answered that remaining without a spouse was a virtuous choice, while being careful not to deny the God-given right to marry, particularly in light of its benefit against the temptations of sexual immorality (7:2). Without a doubt, if the unmarried and widows were to marry it must be a God-approved marriage. You see, not every marriage has God’s approval (Mark 6:17-18; Romans 7:3; Matthew 5:32; 19:9). We cannot legitimize any marriage that God calls “unlawful” and “adultery” without incurring His displeasure and wrath (Ephesians 5:5-7). Whether or not we are married, we must make choices that enhance and protect our moral purity.
6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. (1 Corinthians 7:6–7, NKJV)
Paul had commanded sexual purity in 1 Corinthians 6:18 when he wrote, “Flee sexual immorality” (fornication, KJV). While acknowledging the virtue of celibacy, Paul explained that marriage is a God-given means of avoiding fornication (1 Corinthians 7:1-2). But, with marriage also comes responsibilities for which one is accountable to God (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Now, the apostle hastens to explain that he is not commanding people to marry. We have permission to marry, but marriage is not mandatory. Paul’s stated preference (that all could exercise self-control against the sins of the flesh and remain unmarried as he was) is readily understood in the context of the “present distress” (which he would develop later in this chapter, 1 Corinthians 7:25-26, 28-29, 32, 35). Some are favored with the ability to live free of sexual immorality without marriage. Others, who do not have this ability, choose to marry and live free of sexual immorality. Whether married or not, one must refrain from sexual sin. Whether married or not, we must glorify God in our body, which belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5, NKJV)
God-approved marriage gives moral protection against sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). In marriage, each one’s body belongs to the other, emphasizing the unselfish nature of the sexual union of the husband and the wife. Verse 5 affirms the selfless feature of the marriage bed as the apostle warns married couples not to deprive (“defraud,” KJV) one another of this marital right and privilege, except under three conditions: (1) It is by mutual consent, (2) It is temporary, and (3) It is for a period of concentrated spiritual activity (fasting and prayer). The danger of depriving one’s spouse of the marriage bed is the opening it gives Satan to tempt one (or both) to abandon self-control and commit sexual immorality. You are a preserver and protector of your mate’s moral purity and self-control when you render the affection he or she is due (1 Corinthians 7:3). You become a tool of Satan when you deprive your spouse of the marriage bed of honor (Hebrews 13:4).
“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, NKJV)
Just as an athlete must use self-control to win the prize, Christians must exercise self-control to obtain the imperishable crown of eternal life. The fruit of the Spirit yields self-control (Galatians 5:23). Merriam-Webster defines self-control as “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” The Greek word for self-control is defined by Thayer as “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites” (167). Self-control is measured by our ability to conform ourselves with complete devotion to the will of Christ (Colossians 3:17). Self-control restrains one from evil and directs one’s conduct in the ways of righteousness. We must control our emotions, impulses and desires to do God’s will (Titus 2:11-12). We also need self-control to abstain from evil (1 Peter 2:11). Self-control is developed by the deliberate choices we make to shun evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).
29 Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the backs of fools. 1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Proverbs 19:29-20:1, NKJV)
Intoxicating beverages lead people astray from the path of sober-mindedness and self-control, to a state of derision and tumult. The “scoffers” for which “judgments are prepared” (19:29), are none other than those under the influence of wine, which is a “mocker” (20:1). The same Hebrews word is used for scoffers and mocker in both verses. Drinking wine (not to mention, strong drink) mocks sobriety, and falls under judgment for doing so. Our passage says the person who is led astray by wine, as well as stronger intoxicating beverages, is “not wise” (a fool). God reveals the punishment (“judgments”) in verse 29: “beatings (are prepared) for the backs of fools.” You cannot consume alcohol without diminishing your sobriety and self-control. That is axiomatic. Inhibitions are lowered as alcoholic intake increases. Be wise, and abstain from the drinking that leads to excess (1 Peter 4:3). You will avoid the drunkenness that starts with the first drink, as well as the punishment of fools.
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. (1 Peter 4:3, NKJV)
Look carefully at this Scripture’s description of the “past lifetime” spent in “doing the will of the Gentiles,” instead of doing “the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:2). One thing all these sins have in common is the absence of self-control. From the sinful indulgence of lewd words and actions, to all manner of evil cravings, to drunkenness, carousing and the drinking parties that lead to excess, to the abominations of idolatry formed by unbelief – self-control is forfeited when these sins are practiced. Purity of heart protects us against lascivious, lustful conduct. Sober-mindedness refuses even the first drink of mind-numbing alcohol which, left unrestrained, invariably progresses to debauchery and drunkenness. Those who have armed themselves with the mind of Christ do not adopt the ways of unbelievers, much less defend those ways (1 Pet. 4:1-2). It grieves us when Christians defend the occasional consumption of alcohol, for it indicates a mind that is still “doing the will of the Gentiles,” instead of the will of God. Today’s tip: Put away all the sins of the past, exercise self-control, and live for the will of God today and every day.