1 Corinthians 7:1-40 by Pastor Dan Walker
The biblical standard for marriage is under great attack in our time. Learn from God's Word how to build a godly marriage that will survive these attacks and thrive. God's plan for marriage will bless your family as you follow His instructions.
Duration:38 mins 36 secs

Today we continue with our message series from 1 Corinthians called “Spirit Empowered Living.” Our message today is entitled “Build a Godly Marriage.” Marriage is a hot topic in our culture today, for all the wrong reasons. Rather than begin with those misconceptions, we going to start today with the biblical definition of marriage.

Genesis 1:27 (ESV) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

This verse is taken from the very first chapter in the Bible about God’s creation of the universe. We see first of all, that humans were created in the image of God. That means that they possessed a moral likeness, they were created as sinless and holy. They were created with a natural likeness to God, having a spirit, mind, emotions and the power of choice. Finally, they were created in such as way that they could enjoy a personal relationship with their Creator.

God created humans as two and only two genders, male and female. We now know scientifically that gender is determined by the DNA of a person which never changes throughout their lives. Every male has XY chromosomes and every female has XX chromosomes.

Genesis 1:28 (ESV) And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion … over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Men and women were not created to live separate lives, but together to multiple and fill the earth with their children. The Bible speaks of this union or marriage in the second chapter of Genesis.

Genesis 2:24 (ESV) Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The foundation of human society is the family, consisting of a husband and his wife, who in a mystery become one flesh. Together they reflect the image of God to the world and actually represent the loving relationship of Christ and the church. In every age, Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy God’s design for marriage. Romans 1 speaks of how because of sin, men have perverted sexual relations with men and women with women. Not only is this sin in and of itself, it also destroys the biblical concept of marriage and eliminates the blessing of children.

The good news is that any sin, including sins of homosexuality and gender confusion can be forgiven and healed through the cross of Christ. Today, we’re going to see what God’s Word has to say about building godly marriages and promoting godly marriages in a culture that is headed the other direction. So, let’s see what the Bible has to say about …

Living out a godly marriage

1 Corinthians 7:2 (ESV) But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

The culture in the city of Corinth taught that the physical body was evil and so physical desires should be denied, even in marriage. Verse two corrects this error. The physical body is not evil, but was created in the image of God. Sexual relations in a godly marriage is not just about procreation, but part of becoming one flesh. Without physical intimacy in marriage, there would be the ongoing temptation to sexual immorality outside of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV) 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.

Paul expands on this instruction on godly marriage relations here. He makes it clear in the whole passage, that each partner in marriage should never withhold intimacy from each other. The only exception would be for limited time of focused prayer on an urgent issue. Again, if these guidelines are not followed, then Satan will find a way to tempt the husband and wife outside of the marriage in one way or another. If sexual intimacy in marriage is necessary to avoid temptation to sexual immorality, what about single believers?

1 Corinthians 7:7 (ESV) I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

Paul himself at this point was single and indicated that he had the gift of self-control to avoid giving in to sexual temptation. We do not know whether Paul was married at some previous point in his life. Obviously, Jesus was single his entire life, so being single is part of God’s plan for some. And before anyone is married, they are single for a time period, some longer than others. During the single time period, whether brief or life-long, God will give the necessary gift of self-control to remain pure. So let’s talk a bit more about how these Scriptures help us to live out a godly marriage.

As we mentioned in the introduction, the prevailing views on marriage and gender issues in our culture is rapidly moving away from a biblical perspective. As believers, our truth is based on God’s Word, not the news or the views of the world. God desires for us to speak the truth of His Word in love and to live out the truth of God’s Word in love. The biblical view of sexuality is that it is reserved only for marriage between one man and one woman. Any other expression of sexuality outside of biblical marriage is wrong and brings about very negative consequences in the lives of people involved.

When a marriage is full of love in every dimension, emotional, spiritual and physical, it best reflects the glory of God to the world around. If there is sin contrary to God’s Word, God makes provision for forgiveness through repentance and changed behavior. 

As the news seems to be full of items about transgenderism, let’s briefly speak to it. Transgenderism is when a biological male desires to identify as a female or vice versa. This may involve dress, hormone treatments and even surgical mutilation. This type of behavior is condemned in the Bible as sin and in reality is a form of homosexuality. As with all types of sin, including sexual sin, God is able to forgive and give victory over temptation.

There is great value for society in persuading people to accept and God’s truth about gender and marriage, even for unbelievers. May God help us to spread His truth about living out a godly marriage.

Dealing with marital situations

1 Corinthians 7:8 (ESV) To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

We’ve talked a great deal about the blessing of the marriage relationships. But what about those who are single, which could be never married, widowed or divorced. The time in which Paul was writing was a time of great persecution and distress in the world. God’s Word was saying that it’s OK to remain single, it is not wrong, it is good if God has called you to live as single.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (ESV) To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Marriage was intended by God to be a life-long commitment, until death would part the couple. The Bible says that God hates divorce, it is breaking of a marriage covenant meant to be for a lifetime. Jesus did mention that if one marriage partner broke the covenant through the adultery, the other partner could divorce them if reconciliation was impossible. In any separation or divorce, God’s desire is for the marriage to be restored if at all possible.

1 Corinthians 7:13 (ESV) If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

In Paul’s time, just as today, there are cases where a believer ends up married to an unbeliever. Scripturally, a believer should not marry an unbeliever and so be unequally yoked. But sometimes this happens knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. At other times, two unbelievers get married and then one gets saved. If the unbeliever is OK with living with the believer, the believer should not divorce the unbeliever. If the unbeliever leaves or divorces the believer, then the believer would be free to marry again, as the unbeliever has broken the marriage. Why should the believer continue to be married to the unbeliever?

1 Corinthians 7:16 (ESV) For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

God’s will is that the believing husband or wife should lead the unbelieving partner to the Lord so that they are saved. Then you have a godly marriage to build upon.

Let’s talk about God’s plans for marriage. I believe that God has a plan for everyone’s life, which includes a plan for whether and when you are to be married and to whom you are to be married. Now, just because God has a plan for your life doesn’t mean that you are going to perfectly follow that plan. That good news is that even if we mess up on God’s plan, He always has a way forward for us. I also believe that the Bible teaches that no one else can mess up God’s plan for your life, only you can do that. Let’s address singles a bit from my perspective.

I graduated from college and then graduate school without finding God’s choice for me as a wife. God’s plans for me were to remain single until I was married at age 38 to my lovely wife Carol.  She was definitely worth the wait, as she was and is a wonderful woman of God. It’s far better to wait for God’s best than to settle for anything less. Once you are married, that is God’s choice for you. As you seek God together for a lifetime, He will bless you and your children.

Having proper priorities in marriage

1 Corinthians 7:32 (ESV) I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.

In this next section of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul again addresses the differences between being single and being married. This is not speaking of one being better than the other, but just different. A single man or woman can be solely focused on the things of God and how to please Him. Paul himself was single and undertook many hazardous missionary journeys throughout the ancient world which would have been impossible as a married man.

1 Corinthians 7:33 (ESV) But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,

For these verses, I prefer the NIV translation which says that a married man is concerned with worldly things, not anxious. Obviously, a godly husband has responsibilities toward his wife and family that will take a significant proportion of his time and effort. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact that’s what God’s Word instructs a husband to do. Rather than putting down the married state, I believe that the Bible here is elevating the status of single believers. God’s Word is challenging single believers to serve Him wholeheartedly in their single state, whether for a season for most or life-long for a few.

1 Corinthians 7:35 (ESV) 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.

Paul is not telling anyone that they should either be single of married, God is the one who determines the giftings and plans that He has for every person. Whether a person is single or married, they should have the Lord in first place in their lives. For those who are married, God’s Word shows how they can serve the Lord by loving their wives and training their children up in the ways of God. Those who are single for a season should use that time, not to indulge their desires or their careers, but to serve God as He directs. God desires for us to have proper priorities in our lives, whether married or single.

I believe that the goal of this passage is for every believer to be able to give their undivided devotion to the Lord, whether single or married. What does that mean? It certainly does not mean that they must only be engaged in fulltime ministry, although it could mean that, as it did for Paul. Having undivided devotion to the Lord is to do everything in life for Jesus. Whether that is raising children for the Lord, ministering together with your wife in the church or serving as a single missionary in a difficult mission field. God desires for us to eliminate the distractions in life that keep us from living out God’s purpose in our lives.

If you’re married, seek God’s help to make your marriage be the godliest marriage it can be. If you’re single, seek God’s help to make your single years the most effective for Him, in your career, in your witness, in your relationships and in your church. May the Lord help each of us to grow in undivided devotion to Him.

Living out a godly marriage begins by understanding God’s view and purpose for marriage. A godly marriage is about two believers, a man and a woman, joining together in a life-long commitment of serving God together. For those who are single, God likewise, has a wonderful plan for your years of singlehood, whether for a season or lifelong. As you don’t have the responsibilities of marriage and family, you have more time and resources to use in devotion to the Lord’s purposes. May each of us have opportunities to share God’s truth of a godly marriage to others. And may all of us, whether single or married, show the world what God is like through our lives.