1CORINTHIANS 7:1-16 (NIV – UK)
Concerning married life
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 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. 5 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. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 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.
8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
TWO GIFTS FROM GOD
Singleness can be a real taboo topic, can’t it? Maybe you (or someone you know) are single, mid-thirties, with no love interest on the horizon. Think of Bridget Jones – her one goal was to find the love of her life and be married – and she was, in some ways, frowned upon because she was still single at her age (and they dragged it out over two films, with a third on the way!) In that sort of world, singleness is frowned upon, and marriage is seen as the pinnacle that we are all striving towards.
But if Bridget had read 1Corinthians 7 she needn’t have been so concerned – because what we find here in chapter 7 is a very different picture. (Remember, Paul has just been speaking about sexual immorality in the previous chapter, and here he helps us to see relationships in a healthier way.) Paul presents both singleness and marriage as two equal gifts from God. Paul says: ‘Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that’ (v. 6).
Paul has a special message for those who are single. He says this: ‘Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do’ (v. 8). Paul says it is good to stay unmarried – not that it is good to be unmarried and bad to be married – but that both are good. Singleness is as much a gift from God as marriage. Look at Paul – he was single – yet if he were married it would have been very difficult for him to travel around and spread the Gospel as he did. Paul used the gift of singleness to his (and the Lord’s) advantage.
To the married Paul stresses the importance of commitment to one another. Of course, human relationships can throw up all sorts of difficulties along the way, some which unfortunately cannot be overcome – but Paul’s point remains – commitment is essential in order to fully enjoy the gift of marriage.
Question: Do you find it reassuring to know that both singleness and marriage are equal gifts from God?