1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 43
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|After talking about the sin of immorality, coming down to the fact that our bodies are the temple of God, he changed gears. But you have to continue the flow of that thought because that dictates how we live, whether He lives in us to rule and reign through us. He begins to talk about marriage, divorce, remarriage, celibacy, a lot of things in chapter 7.|
1 Corinthians 7:1
Should I remarry or remain single?
We’re about to wade into some deep water. I want to entitle this “Should I Remarry or Remain Single – Part 1.” We’re not going to get past verse 1, but I want to talk about that.
In chapter 6 the apostle Paul has shared a wonderful truth in the background of a horrid sin. Isn’t it amazing how out of the blackest of circumstances sometimes God reveals the most marvelous of truths? And in the midst of the immorality of chapter 6, in the midst of believers in the church of Corinth soliciting prostitutes in the area, in the midst of all of that horrible stuff, he reveals to us afresh that our bodies are the temple of God.
In chapter 7 Paul shifts gear. After talking about this sin of immorality, coming down to the fact that our bodies are the temple of God, he changed gears. But you have to continue the flow of that thought because that dictates how we live, whether He lives in us to rule and reign through us. He begins to talk about marriage, divorce, remarriage, celibacy, a lot of things in chapter 7.
Verse 1 starts off with a reference to a letter they evidently had written to the apostle Paul. In that letter were many, many questions. Verse 1 says, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote.” Chapters 7 through 11 talk a lot about the things that they wrote and him answering the questions that they asked. The problem is, we don’t have the letter, so we don’t have the questions; all we have are the answers. That’s an interesting thing, to walk into a subject as deep as we’re going to walk into without the questions, only having the answers. You have to be very, very careful as we proceed.
Chapter 7 begins, as I said, with the subject of marriage and celibacy. Celibacy, for those of you who don’t know what it is, is remaining single; singleness; staying single. That becomes a part of, especially the first seven verses, what we will deal with.
To understand chapter 7, not just marriage and celibacy but all the things that are there, I think you have to back up a little bit and understand some of the culture of Corinth, what was going on there and what was happening. I think that helps us at least to get a handle on some of the things Paul is addressing.
Much of the Corinthians believers’ morality reflected the pagan immoral culture around them. Their society tolerated fornication, adultery, homosexuality, polygamy, and even concubines to some extent, in people’s lives. A Roman poet named Jubenal, who wrote between 60 and 140 AD, wrote of women at that time who even rejected their own sex. They wore helmets and armor and carried swords and enjoyed going into battle and whipping and killing men. That was in their culture at that time.
There were four types of marriages that were permitted during that day. One was for the slaves. That was a sub-human type of marriage, because when you had a precious man or woman who wanted to get married, they were totally under the rule of whoever the owner of those slaves were. They had a “tent companionship,” which meant they were to be together as long as the owner said they could be together. He could change partners or dissolve the marriage at any time. It was a sub-human type of situation.
Secondly, there was a form of common-law marriage where a person could live with somebody for a year and they were married. Wow! That sounds like America, doesn’t it?
Three, there was a special kind of arranged marriage when fathers would sell their daughters to perspective husbands.
But four was much more elevated. The nobility were married in this particular type of ceremony. I think you’ll enjoy this. This is what came right into our modern culture even of today. The Roman Catholic Church adopted it and modified it some. Protestantism picked it up and carried it right through the Reformation. Now we see it every time we go to a wedding. You see this very same thing they had back in this day. The nobility enjoyed this kind of marriage.
The original ceremony involved both sets of families in the arrangements for the wedding. A matron, or what we would call a bridesmaid, accompanied the bride, and a man, or the best man as we would call it, accompanied the groom. There was the exchanging of vows. There was the wearing of the veil by the bride. There was the giving of the ring, which interestingly enough, was placed on the third finger of the left hand. There was a bridal bouquet and a wedding cake.
That was the fourth type of marriage they had. The problem is the earlier church had members of every type of these marriages who came to be a part of the church family. The church was filled with members who had multiple marriages and divorces. But that wasn’t enough. Some of the members had gotten the idea that celibacy was spiritual.
Do you remember in 1:12 and 3:4 we read, “I’m of Paul; I’m of Cephas”? Well Paul was a person who lived a celibate life. He was single. God had gifted him and called him that way. The Corinthians said that since Paul lived that way, that must be the way to go. So these people actually preached down marriage, as if you were more spiritual if you were celibate.
It’s the same idea as fasting that’s gotten into our culture. People think if you fast, you’re more spiritual. No! Fasting is an environment in which you put prayer so that you can better hear what God is saying to your heart. It doesn’t make you spiritual. Jesus is our spirituality. But they had the same mind-set towards celibacy.
Still others taught that sex was unspiritual and should be forsaken even in the marriage bond. It was a tough situation. You can imagine. Can you imagine being the pastor at the church at Corinth with all this kind of stuff out there? That would have been tough for the mature much less the immature of that day.
On top of that, Corinth was a Gentile city, but had a substantial Jewish population. In Acts 18:4, when he first went to Corinth, it says, “And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” Now with this mix, with religious Jews who had rejected Christ coming to know Christ, with pagan Gentiles who didn’t have any need for Him coming to know Christ, there are bound to be some marital problems in that mix.
Take, for instance, the scenario of a Gentile. You’re talking about two unbelievers now, whether religious or rebellious or whatever. One of them comes to know Christ. Of course, they lived and participated in immorality. That was just the norm of the day. Probably the woman came to Christ first. The men are so hard-headed. Say the woman comes to know Christ. Immediately she stops her immoral lifestyle. Immediately she begins to understand her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. And suddenly she’s forced into a dilemma. What do I do? Does she refuse any kind of sexual relations with the unbelieving spouse since her body is now the dwelling of Christ? Does she remain married and have her body used by an adulterous husband? Or does she get a divorce and remarry? These were some of the questions that were being asked of the apostle Paul? The only reason we know that is by the answers that he gives. We don’t have the questions. We just have the answers.
The answers he gives even relates to us today. As you know, all of these things are present in our society just like it was at the time of Corinth. Verse 1 of chapter 7 says, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” He seems to be dealing with the question in verses 1-7, “Should I remarry or should I remain single?”
By the way, this is not the first time this question has come up. In fact, I want to take you back to Matthew 19:8. The Pharisees are trying to trick the Lord Jesus into saying something wrong. They know the original design. They know the Old Testament, and they say in the earlier verse that Moses commanded them to get a statement of divorce. Jesus says, “No, he didn’t either. He permitted you.” But he’s answering in response to the Pharisees. (I want to apologize ahead of time. We’re not going to cover this context. That’s not my message. But I want to show you this.)
In verse 8 of Matthew 19 we read, “He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.’” In other words, it’s not God’s original design, but He permitted you. Verse 9 says, “‘And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”
There were two great preachers. You would know who they were if I told you. They were at one of their places of ministry in another state and were walking alongside each other. One of them looked at the other and said, “Do you believe there is an exception clause for divorce?” The other one said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “Why do you believe that?” He said, “Because Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, ‘Except for immorality.’ As far as I can tell that’s an exception clause.” The person answered him back and said, “Well, now wait a minute. We’ve got some geese here.” He showed him a pen filled with geese. He said, “When these geese came, we had to trim their feathers to keep them in the pen. But one time an animal got over in the corner and tried to root its way in a hole there where the geese could get out and every one of those geese tried to get out of that hole. In other words, if you go around telling people that there is an exception clause, they will use that as a loophole to get out of marriages they don’t want to stay in.” But this great preacher looked back at his friend and said, “May I ask you a question?” He said, “Yes.” “If you didn’t have any geese, what would Matthew 19:9 say?”
Isn’t it amazing the positions we put ourselves in that God would never tell us to put ourselves in. All we know is what Jesus said. Except there be for immorality. But that’s another subject and another time. I just want to show you how His disciples reacted to that. Jesus said, “You’re never commanded to do it, but if there’s a permission, it’s in this area – except there be for immorality.” Look at what His disciples say in verse 10. They were certainly the great spiritual giants of their day. “The disciples said to Him, ‘If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.’” You don’t think that’s funny, but that’s going to hit you in about three days. Do you realize what was going on with these guys? They’re saying, “What do you mean? You mean I can’t divorce my wife once the toast is burned? You mean I can’t divorce my wife because she doesn’t look as good as she did the day I got married? I can’t go find me a prettier one? You mean to tell me it has to be for this one thing? Hey, why get married?” That was the mentality of the day in which Jesus ministered when He was on earth. Incredible!
It hasn’t changed much in the twentieth century, has it? It’s amazing but we’re still asking the same questions they asked in Corinth. It appears that they’re asking the same thing. Some of these questions must have been asked by the answers Jesus gives back. Let’s ease into the chapter.
Paul is not demeaning marriage.
Verse 1 reads, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” I want to tell you something, folks. If you don’t study this thoroughly you could make this thing a cookbook before you get out of it. It’s incredible what you might come up with without understanding some things. So what is Paul is saying? One of the best ways to find out what he is saying is to look and document what he’s not saying. That’s very important. Find out what he’s not saying and probably the truth will surface very quickly, especially here. We don’t know what the question was, but I think we’ll know it by the time we finish.
First of all, he in no way is putting marriage down. When he says that it’s good for a man not to touch a woman, he’s not promoting celibacy or asceticism. Now asceticism was a little bit different than celibacy. Asceticism was a particular persuasion of some that you deny your body, your flesh, any kind of external pleasure including marriage. Therefore, you live this life of self-denial, and that was a spiritual thing to do. Celibacy is being single. He’s not in any way promoting either one of these two things. That’s not what he’s saying. All you have to do is go back to the Word of God and realize that marriage is God’s plan. You know that Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, would not be in any way going against what God had purposed and what God had planned for mankind.
Go to Genesis 2:18. I read this a lot of times in marriage ceremonies that I do. Right before the bride comes down I read several passages out of Genesis 2. Verse 18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” There’s another verse in between that in verse 24. It says, “God brought the woman to the man.” I rest on that promise. I believe that Stephen’s going to have a wife one day but I have come to believe that God is going to have to bring her to him. He’s not having any kind of good fortune finding her.
Anyway, verse 24 of chapter 2 says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
Go back to Genesis 1:27, when he first created them. You see that marriage is the highest purpose He had for man and woman. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Marriage, from the very beginning, was God’s idea.
Turn over to Proverbs 18:22. We find a wonderful verse here where God again puts His stamp of approval upon marriage. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
So we see God is pleased when man and woman marry. This is God’s idea. Paul himself taught that not only was marriage good, but it was good for the leadership of the church. He says to the elders to be a one-woman man. He says the same thing for the deacons in 1 Timothy 3:12. He’s not going to contradict what he’s taught. That’s not what he’s doing in 1 Corinthians 7:1. Since we don’t know the question, we can rule out one of them and that is, is he in any way demeaning marriage? First Timothy 3:12 says, “Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.”
Flip over to 5:14. He deals with widows, a person whose husband has died and the younger widows. Look at what he says to them. “Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach.” That’s pretty clear. He’s putting a stamp of approval upon marriage. In the Old Testament, God the Father is spoken of as being the husband to Israel. You see that in Isaiah 54:5. Flip back over there. We don’t do this all the time, but I think it’s good from time to time to look and see, making sure that we’re backing this up with God’s Word that marriage is God’s idea.
In Isaiah 54:5, he even uses the analogy in His relationship to Israel. He says in verse 5, “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.”
Look over in chapter 62 and verse 5 of Isaiah. He said, “For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.”
Now look in Hosea 2:19: “And I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion.” That’s God in His relationship to Israel, and He uses the terminology of a husband to a wife.
Christ’s teachings in the parables incorporate marriage. Look over in Matthew 22:2. He uses that terminology. It’s the vocabulary of God. This is His idea. This is not our idea. Matthew 22:2 says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son.” He uses the wedding feast. He pictures again in His teaching, this picture of a wedding. The parable of the ten virgins is the picture of the coming of Christ. It talks about how the unexpected coming of the bridegroom and how it catches them off guard in Matthew 25:10. Look over there. It says, “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.” There’s a lot behind that one. But that’s the terminology used. We find that the church is the bride of Christ.
Look over in 2 Corinthians 11:2. The church is the bride of Christ. As a matter of fact, marriage is a picture of all of this, a husband and wife relationship. It’s a beautiful analogy that’s drawn here in 2 Corinthians 11:2. He says, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” There’s a picture of there of a husband and the bride, the bride being the church.
It’s also pictured in Revelation 19:7. It says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” By the way, there’s a tremendous study in that. She was not made ready, but made herself ready. That’s something to take some time sometimes and study.
Look in chapter 21 and verse 2 of Revelation. We’re just looking at the terminology of marriage and how God so incorporates it into the vocabulary of Scripture. It says in verse 2, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Then in verse 17 of chapter 22 it says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”
There is no way Paul is demeaning marriage when he says that it is good for a man not to touch a woman. He is not putting it down. He’s not making it second rate. That has nothing to do with it. That could never have been the question that was asked, you see.
Paul is not teaching sexual relations in marriage is wrong.
Secondly, there is no way that Paul is teaching that sexual relations are wrong within the marriage bond. Do you realize when you read that verse if you don’t understand what he’s saying, you could come up with that? One person could move to one end of the house and the other person could move to the other end of the house. They would come together only to have meals or whatever and talk on C.B. radios or whatever else they do. That’s the way some people surface-interpret. You can make the Bible a cookbook if you want to, but that is not what Paul is doing here. I’ll prove it to you, as a matter of fact.
He only is dealing with a man touching a woman who is outside the marriage bond. That has to be the question. Look at verse 5 of chapter 7. Speaking to married couples about sexual intimacy in the marriage he says, “Stop depriving one another [directly referring to sexual relationship], except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Now, you take that verse and put it into that kind of context and it won’t fit. He’s not talking about married couples not touching each other, a man not touching a woman. But when the woman is not the man’s wife and they’re not in the marriage bond, now we’re getting some sense out of this. Then it’s good for a man not to touch a woman. All kinds of immoral things happen when a man chooses to touch a woman who is not his wife.
Hang on. Relax. I’m going to get to your question. I know what you’re thinking. But I’m not there yet. Don’t jump ahead of me. He’s even talking about single men and single women or whatever scenario does not cover the married partners within the marriage bond.
I want to show you something before I get back to what I believe he’s saying here. Go back to Matthew 5. In the Beatitudes, Jesus talked about [[divorce and remarriage]], but He doesn’t start with verse 31 of chapter 5 when He brings it up. He starts in verse 27. If you’ll follow the flow of it, it makes more sense. He says in verse 27, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ [that is an illicit sexual relationship with somebody outside the marriage bond. But look at this in verse 28] but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” It starts with an immoral look, a roving eye. Look out for the roving eye.
Verse 29 continues, “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Look at verse 30. “And if your right hand makes you stumble, [that’s interesting. He’s moved from the eye that roves to the hand] cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.” From the eye to the hand to the touch.
Then in verse 31 he links it to divorce. “And it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’” Why would he send her away? Go back and study it. Well, she burns the toast or she doesn’t look as good as when I first got married, or I found somebody else that my eyes have locked onto. Perhaps there’s been a touch involved and perhaps now the whole process is about to get into motion. Oh, it makes sense now when Paul says, “It’s good for a man not to touch a woman.” The touch comes second. Jesus said that it starts with the eye and then it moves to the hand to the touch and then the act is soon to follow.
The word “touch” is the interesting word here that I want you to see. It is the word haptomai. It means to set fire, to kindle, to light. I thought that’s interesting. Some people say, “Does it mean I can’t even touch them? Can I not even walk up and touch somebody?” I know that’s what you’re thinking. “Are you kidding me? Do I have to start getting paranoid already?” Relax. The word “touch” will tell you.
There are two words for “touch.” He could have used a more generic word but he doesn’t. He used the word haptomai. It means to light a fire. In Luke 8:16, he says, “Now no one after lighting a lamp [that’s the word] covers it over with a container.” Luke 11:33 says the same exact thing, “No one, after lighting a lamp.” Luke 15:8 reads, “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” Each time the word haptomai is used.
Now, the more general word for touch is the word thiggano. In other words, there’s a difference in a hug and a HUG.
Let me ask you a question. Did you grow up in a hugging family? I did. My mama hugged everything that moved. She would hug a fencepost if it moved. She grew up hugging. I grew up hugging. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the more generic word. But the word haptomai means to touch with an intent to go further than that touch, to handle something. There’s something more involved here than just touch. There’s a hug and there’s a HUG. If you’re telling me you don’t know the difference, don’t touch, because you need to back off and understand where all of this is coming from.
People say to me, “I don’t know the difference.” You do, too. You’re lying. How spiritual we can act sometimes. Every one of us knows the difference in a hug and a HUG. The word haptomai, that he’s using here, is used in Matthew 8:3. Let me show you how it’s used. Matthew 8:3 says, “And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’” This passage is speaking of the leper when Jesus touched him. There was influence in that touch. It’s used with Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew 8:15. “And He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and waited on Him.” In Matthew 9:20 the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus in order to be healed. It says, “And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak.” Why? Verse 21 tells us, “For she was saying to herself, ‘If I could only touch His garment, I shall get well.’” In other words, there’s influence there. There’s more than just a random touch. There’s more to it than that. There’s an intent involved. The word for touch means to touch with the intent of influencing someone.
Have you ever been in a crowd and everybody’s just hugging everybody and you go home and something’s bothering you because there was one hug that wasn’t like everybody’s hug and you’re thinking to yourself, “Uh-oh”?
I’ll tell you, folks. He’s telling us something here. Now do you understand why he says, “It’s good for a man not to, with influence, with evil intent, touch a woman”? You see, you’re moving further in your understanding of what he’s saying right here. Paul answers what must be asked concerning relationships outside the marriage bond. He uses that word “touch” that we hopefully understand by now. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” This applies to any one married or anyone single who is not in the marriage bond with one someone else. I’m serious. Whether married or single, this applies.
By the way, if you’re a single person, be really careful. I just say that from my heart. Because it starts with the eyes, moves to the hands, to the touch, and then to the act. Be real careful.
Do you realize there are many times that churches, our church included, could be guilty of putting people in situations that propagates that very thing? We learned, particularly in drama situations, when you start taking the husband of one wife and a wife of another husband, and you put them in situations and they practice for hours and hours and hours so the performance will be right, many times what you do without realizing it, not intentionally doing it, but you begin to set an atmosphere for the eye to rove, for the hand and for the touch. We’ve actually seen marriages affected. Not that that’s what made it happen. But without even realizing it, we fell right into that scenario.
You see, folks, we’ve got to be so careful about this. I’m trying to make it as light as I possibly can but this is a very serious thing. There are times when people are just accidents looking for a place to happen and whatever you plan it’s going to happen. But we’re trying to learn to whatever we do to make sure we think through as best as possible and ask the Lord to cover our bases because there are many times people get involved who don’t seem to understand that a married man does not touch another woman with an intent that has come from a roving eye. We’ve got to be so careful.
Paul is not condemning celibacy.
Well, thirdly, he’s not condemning celibacy. I want you to know that. I may sound as if celibacy would be wrong. No, no. In certain situations celibacy is okay, if it’s God’s gift to you and it’s God’s direction in your life. Celibacy, the desire to remain single, however, was rare in Paul’s day. You didn’t find it in the Gentile world. Corinth speaks for itself. But in the Christian world it was very rare to find a person who felt like God had directed them to remain celibate, to remain single. It was not a part of the Nazarite vow. However, if John the Baptist was under a Nazarite vow, then he would have classified in that. Some people think he was an Essene. The Essenes are another study for another day. You need to do that. It’s worthy of study. They started off with a very pure motive and a pure heart. The lived down in the area where a lot of the scrolls have been found. The Essenes are very credible in many of the things that they did.
But the germ of Gnostic dualism possibly came out of their thinking. One of the things they did do that was negative was they took a pure motive of discerning between light and darkness and made it bad. They got to the point that they said that anything that was material was evil. This begin to fester the false theology that John dealt with in his epistles and Paul dealt with in many places, that Jesus could not have had an earthly body because all bodies are sinful. That germ was found even in the Essenes, as pure as their motive were when they first began.
But there’s one other thing they did that was a negative influence on Christianity. They absolutely propagated celibacy. You had to be celibate for three years to even join their community. They were communal type of people. They were very exclusive of others. They kind of lived to themselves. If you were an Essene and you found another Essene in some place, buddy, you were okay because they would take care of you. That’s kind of the way it was.
But, you see, they propagated celibacy, and it got into the Christian community. Many of them even linked it to John the Baptist and said, “Hey, Paul was celibate and evidently it’s spiritual to be celibate, to be single.” You’ve got to be real careful about that. It is only right for you if God has directed you that way. In other words, it’s not the lifestyle you choose. It’s something God may choose for you, but He’ll gift you to go through it, if that’s what He wants for your life. But He never ever, no matter who commends it in Scripture, puts celibacy above marriage. Marriage is always the highest area of relationship God has for man and for woman.
Well, Jesus, in Matthew 19, uses the word “unit” there but it has the same idea. He commends those people who choose to be that. But He related His commendation to those to whom it was given and to those who were able to receive it. So in Scripture celibacy is perhaps an exception. It’s not the rule, never the rule. It could be an exception. It could be the thing God has for you. However, it will be a giftedness God will give you to remain single and to go right on living your life not touching a woman, just going straight on through if that’s what God has for you. Or in a woman’s case, not touching a man.
In verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 7 it appears that Paul might be encouraging celibacy. He says, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am.” Paul wasn’t tied to anything. Man, he was free to be whatever God wanted him to be, wherever God wanted him to be. He knew there was a certain tie-down to marriage that he couldn’t just go do the things that he felt God was leading him to do. But then he qualified it. He said, “However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.”
So celibacy is good if God directs you that way, and if He directs you that way, He’ll gift you to be able to remain celibate. It’s okay. It doesn’t make you more spiritual than the person who’s married. It just makes you be about the purpose that God has for you. Don’t ever get the mind-set that celibacy is condemned by what we’re saying. But it’s never elevated above marriage.
Perhaps you’re like my son who called me one day and said, “Dad, maybe God’s called me to be single.” I said, “Why’s that, Stephen?” He said, “I just can’t find the right person.” I said, “Stephen, do you want to get married?” He said, “Absolutely.” I said, “Well, Son, I can say this with all the integrity I can think of. You’re not called to be celibate, because if you have a desire in your heart to be married and you’re looking and you want that relationship, then just start trusting God to bring the right mate to you in His time. He’ll take care of you in the meantime. Secondly, keep your hands to yourself.” That might be good instruction for somebody who can’t find a mate, but desires one. Just keep on desiring Christ. Psalm 37:4 says, “His desires will become you desires.” If He has you desire a mate, he’ll bring you a mate when the time is right.
Let’s go back to the touch. What could the question have been? It had to be a question that had nothing to do with a man and his own wife. It could not have anything to do with that. It had to be in an area of a man and a woman who were not married. They could have been single or married to somebody else. It had to be in that arena somewhere. But you have to understand the word “touch.”
I know what’s going to happen. After we finish, somebody’s going to walk by somebody and say, “No, that was the other kind of hug.” Don’t get in that. You’ll know. You don’t have to worry about that kind of thing. I could say to the ladies, if a man just keeps on wanting to hug you and it’s not the first kind but it’s the second kind, be careful. What’s on the outside may have something pitiful on the inside as far as an intent. You better get out of that situation quick.
Watch out. There’s a hug and there’s a HUG.