1 Corinthians 7

God has a purpose for each of us, but we can want something other than what God calls us to. That means we have to work hard at focusing on living the life God has for us. Envy, greed, discontentment can creep in. 

Aesop’s fable. A Dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go. As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down and saw himself reflected in the quiet water as if in a mirror. But the greedy Dog thought he saw a real Dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.

But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the Dog in the river, only to find himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out, and as he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realized what a dumb Dog he had been.

Greed is at the heart of so many problems in the world. We have something good but we want something better. Continues to plague us today. We live in one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest countries ever and yet many never enjoy it because they want more. Problems in marriages. The problem is not out there but in us. 

In today’s section Paul addresses issues in marriage, and much of what he says is about being content with the life God calls you to. 

Big Idea: 

The Lord gives us assignments,

And we need to embrace his purpose in them.

In this passage Paul begins to address some issues that the Corinthians have brought to him. Much of the first part of this letter Paul has been addressing things that he has heard are going on in this church. But in this chapter you will see it begins with: 

  • “Now for the matters you wrote about.” v1

This phrase will occur several times in the last half of the book 1 Co. 7:1,25 1 Co. 8:1, 1 Co. 12:1, 1 Co. 16:1, 12. 

The Corinthians have written Paul to get advice on a number of situations. 

One thing we have talked about is how this letter embodies our call to discipleship. Paul has a relationship with this church. He has lived with them, gotten to know them, and he continues to be in a relationship with them. 

*If you want to be used by God in people’s lives you have to take time to get to know them.* There is no shortcut.

*If you want to be ineffective in evangelism then don’t spend time with non-Christians and keep it superficial when you do get together. If you want to be ineffective in making disciples limit any conversation that might make you feel awkward. Don’t share your personal struggles or your personal life. 

Relationships are how we reach others, it is also how we grow deeper in our walk. Are you positioning yourself to learn from others? The Corinthians looked to learn from Paul. They wanted to grow in their walk with God. They are a mess but they are reaching out to understand. Sometimes it’s not where you are but the direction you are going. 

*Building discipleship relationships is one of the most important things for our church going forward. Being in a relationship where we are talking about the Bible but also sharing openly about our lives. 

But let’s look at this passage now and what it says about marriage. 


  • V2 “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her… 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. 5 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.
  • Importance of marriage.

First thing is he highlights the important place of marriage There are certain things he has been saying in previous chapters that you don’t do with others, and now in chapter 7 he says you can do that when you are married. Marriage is a significant event in life. In the Bible it is the deepest, most binding relationship that occurs between two people. It is a man and woman committing themselves to one another. Their verbal commitment allows them to go deeper in their physical and emotional relationship. 

Sex and intimacy are good, but are to be used in the right context. They are powerful. It is uniting two together in a physical, spiritual, emotional bond. 

You don’t let someone drive a new car off the lot if they have not promised to take care of it. You don’t give your new lego ship to your brother if he has not promised to pay you. In the same way we don’t trust our bodies to others if they have not committed to take care of us. That is a way to get deep scars and hurts. 

In marriage each person has rights on the other. Both the man and the woman. What he is saying here in Corinth is counter cultural. Many in this time would have assumed women were the property of a man. Paul says that, but brings the other side in view. The man belongs to the woman, too. There are rights and privileges that she has. 

Marriage is greater than any other relationship. V4. When you get married two become one. The things that are yours suddenly become someone else’s too. This passage shows the sacrificial bond that is to be between a husband and wife. God has made them interdependent on each other. Each has needs that only the other can provide. God made men and women different, and there is a compatibility in that. Beautiful thing!

Marriage is significant. It is good to marry. 

“It is good for them if they remain as I am.” (1Co 7:8 CSB)

Marriage is big, but it is also ok if you do not marry. Marriage will not make you fulfilled. If your focus is on honoring God it doesn’t matter if you do that being married or single. It doesn’t matter if you honor him being rich or poor. Being an engineer or a doctor. People are going to have different things given to them. 

The most important thing is not being married or not married. The most important is honoring God. You can’t expect someone else to fulfill you. Only God can do that. 

Marriage is not greater than God. Take time away from each other in order to pray. Doesn’t say that about anything else. V5. 

It’s a reminder that the most important thing you can do for your spouse is cultivate your personal walk with God. If you are not confident in what he has done for you, confident of your forgiveness in him, confident of his sovereign hand upholding you in all things then you are going to be a hot mess. If you don’t find peace, comfort, security in God then you won’t have those because you will not find them in another person. 

Trust and follow God even when marriage does not go well. Sometimes you do things and it doesn’t go the way you think it should. Sometimes you make bad decisions and suffer for it. Sometimes you do it as best you can and there are still mishaps. Paul talks about that here when a marriage goes bad. He gives guidelines for when a marriage relationship falls apart. And in it he reminds how God can work even when things deteriorate. He reminds parents that even in a broken relationship God can work in your children and he can work in your life. Don’t give up. And when your spouse is not honoring the Lord it doesn’t mean you have to leave and it doesn’t mean you have to stay. Sometimes life gets messy. But God can cleanse you. Remember that from 6:11

God is bigger than marriage

V39 are to marry anyone they like, as long as they belong to the Lord. Christians should marry Christians. Some people hear that and think man, that is so narrow minded. Why would you do that. Often the people who say that don’t know Christ. Some people think being a Christian is a box you check. Married/not married. Boy/girl.  Age: under 18, 19-24, 65 and up. Religion: Christian. Muslim. Jewish. Atheist. 

But to know Jesus is so much more than checking a box. He is a friend. God is your Father. The spirit indwells you. You want to do everything with an eye to him. You want to honor him in your marriage. Honor him with finances. Another person doesn’t have that kind of walk with God, it may seem radical. They are not concerned with honoring God with their mouth, with their attitude, with relationships with girls or boys. They are not going to sacrifice to go to church, to share the gospel, to give to a church. They won’t want to teach their kids. It is like each person has a different pair of glasses on and therefore they see the world through different lenses, not just a few parts but everything through that new lens. 

  • V19 “Keeping the commands of God is what counts.”

In this section on marriage he starts talking about people being in situations they would want to change. If you are in a bad marriage and God calls you to himself, then do you seek to separate from them?

If you were called when a slave, seek your freedom if you can, but don’t let it trouble you too much. God is greater than all things and able to make all things right. Some people had made other decisions that were rather permanent on their body. He says, you don’t need to change it. It doesn’t matter if you have done this or have not done it. What matters is keeping the commands of God. 

In Christ we are free. In Christ we are subject to God’s loving and gracious rulership. It means every person is free. Every person is bound. Bound to obey God. Paul is talking about some controversial issues but he knows if people will obey God then those issues will be resolved

  • Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.  (1Co 7:17 ESV)

Rest in the place God has called you and focus on honoring him. 

God can make all things right. Don’t need to run after change. People may tell you that you need to do something. Trust in God. Don’t need to get married. Don’t have to stay single. Don’t need a new house. Don’t need a bigger house. Don’t have to get into a better school. It’s not wrong to desire that. Just make sure you keep God’s commands. If you do this and don’t get all the other stuff it is OK. On the contrary, if you get all that other stuff but don’t do this then none of it matters. You just might gain the whole world and forfeit your soul.

Divided up, apportioned. Rom 12:3. Gifts. Dishing up at dinner. 

V24 we are to be in each situation the Lord calls us as responsible to him. 

One of the biggest things that can hurt your relationships is being unhappy in life and putting your need to be happy on another person. This is key. You can be so worried about what someone else has done. You may get upset at them. Take it from them, call them bad names. 

V31 “this world in its present form is passing away.” We need to lift our eyes to what is to come. Are we consumed with living for the things in this world or the things to come. Be the kind of person God calls you to.

  • Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. (1Co 7:26 NIV)

He is addressing a particular situation in Corinth and telling them to remain as they are. He is giving advice to them and not as a command of God. This crisis may have to do with a famine that crossed the Roman empire in 51-53 AD. Many people could not get grain and they suffered greatly. It would cause more stress to those who are married. Paul wants to spare them. 

This crisis has some bearing on our present crisis. Trust that the Lord will take care of you. 

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30 ESV)

Rome would first get supplies and then the other parts of the empire. Was felt for a long time. 

Bruce Winter, “Corinthian Famine,” 1989. Seneca, writing of the problems in Rome in AD 40-1, says we were threatened with the worst evil that can befall men even during a siege – the lack of provisions…[and Gaius’s policies were pursued] very early at the cost of the city’s destruction and famine and the general revolution that follows famine.31 

  1. Garnsey observes that ‘the fear of famine rather than famine itself was enough to send people on the rampage”, as in 57 BC or AD 51′.34

 under Claudius there was a heightened expectation of the parousia as witnessed in the Thessalonian letters of Pau1.4

Do you see this? Paul wants them to acknowledge the hardship. Make plans. You can get married or not get married. Both are permissible. We have a crisis today. There are hardships if you go out, hardships if you stay in. It may be good to do one thing, but it is not wrong to do the other. Go out, don’t go out. Wear a mask/don’t wear a mask. We are in good company with the Corinthians. 

  • I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (1Co 7:35 NIV)

Don’t let the things of this world distract you from your ultimate goal. 

Trying to study for a class and someone keeps disturbing you: comes out and starts eating carrots, throwing the football, got to check the news or the sports. 

I have a gift of being oblivious to things. I don’t see the mess my dirty clothes create. My wife does. Rachael this week came by my desk and said what are all those sirens? I said “what sirens?” 

You can honor the Lord if you are married or not married. If doing art class or music class. 

Let’s not get distracted from what we need to do. Marriage trouble, seek the Lord. Talk to a friend. Seek what God would have you do. Don’t get distracted that God may be trying to work in your heart and life. Don’t get so focused on one thing that you don’t let him search your heart.

Corona, are we wishing this thing away? I want to get out of this. It is crazy. I don’t like it. But God what are you doing in this crisis. It is where God has us. Don’t be so busy trying to get something else that you don’t embrace this time God has us in. You might strive for another bone just to find it was a reflection you could not grasp. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does knowing each person has their own gift from God (v7) enable you to rest contentedly in what God gives to you?
  2. Why is keeping God’s commands (v19) more important that the situation we find ourselves in life? 
  3. What are some ways that you see God being bigger than marriage itself? How does this help you in singleness or in marriage?