1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 47
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 we’re going to look at “May I Marry or Should I Remain Single?” You say, “That’s what we’ve already looked at.” No, in verses 1-7 we looked at “Should I marry or remain single?” Now we’re changing gears a little bit: May I marry or should I remain single?|
1 Corinthians 7:8-9
Should I Marry or Remain Single – Part 5
In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 we’re going to look at “May I Marry or Should I Remain Single?” You say, “That’s what we’ve already looked at.” No, in verses 1-7 we looked at “Should I marry or remain single?” Now we’re changing gears a little bit: May I marry or remain single?
I want to share with you in entering in to the Scripture. It’s not as easy as you might think. When you just surface-read it, you get all kinds of thoughts out of it. But when you start studying it, you realize the depths that are here.
When I first came to this church I used to do all the baptisms, and now the staff does that. I’m so grateful, because it saves me a lot of suits. They had a pair of chest waders that were a size 11. I always felt like a hopeless cripple when I went out to baptize. I wear a size 13. So the feet were not big enough. I had my feet all cramped up in those things and they had holes in the waders. When I used to try to wear my suit under it, it was very embarrassing to come out and preach in a wet suit. The water would just seep into those boots.
I remember one day somebody forgot to turn the heater on in the baptistery. It was in the middle of the wintertime. When I walked out and stepped into it, I knew it was cold, but when that water started going through the holes in my boots, folks, it was cold. The precious little girl that was baptized that morning, when she walked out, she stepped into the water and her breath left her. I said, “Hurry. We’re going to do this quick, because I want out of here too.”
I tell that illustration because sometimes, when you’re studying Scripture, we all must remember I am not the authority. There may be some holes in my waders when I wade into the waters of 1 Corinthians 7. So, don’t ever take what I say as being the last word. You be a student of God’s Word. Be a Berean; check it out; see if it be so. And if it’s so, then reckon with it. I’m doing the best I can. It’s over my head. Thank God, what’s over my head is under His feet.
Here’s the way I see 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. Now, again, we have looked at in verses 1-7, “Should I marry or should I remain single?” We are looking at the answers to questions that we don’t have. In verse 1 of chapter 7 we read, “Now, concerning the things about which you wrote.” For some reason, in God’s sovereignty, He chose not to give us the letter they wrote to the apostle Paul. So we do not have the benefit of knowing what the questions were that they were asking Paul. All we know are the answers that he gives in return. It appears that the questions in verses 1-7 had to do with “Should I marry or should I remain single?”
Remember, some of these people were of Paul. Paul was a single man and, therefore, they became celibate and they told everybody, “Since Paul is this way, we’re going to be this way and that’s the way to be spiritual.” That’s ridiculous, and Paul begins to show us that in verses 1-7.
Evidently all the questions they were asking somehow centered around the perverted ideas they had of sex. For me to mention the word “sex” in open assembly in church with a mixed group, some people already begin to be horrified, and I’ll tell you why. Because as you were growing up, nobody distinguished in your mind between immorality and sexual intimacy in marriage, which is righteous, which is good, which is God ordained and which is blessed. There is a tremendous difference in that. You see, the Corinthians out of the perversion of their mind had even made the statement, “It’s good for a man not to even touch a woman,” because of their misunderstanding of this truth.
Paul picks up on that and he says in verse 1, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” But we understand what he’s saying. He makes a distinguishing difference here. He shows that in marriage, with a man and his wife, that truth does not hold water, because, in marriage, sex is something that God has ordained and it is good for a man to touch his wife. It’s different. But outside of marriage it’s not good for a man to touch a woman.
The word “touch,” as we saw, is the word that means with sexual intention. It’s not just a touch. For those of you that haven’t been here, we’ve been using the phrase, “There’s a hug and there is a HUG.” There’s a difference here. When Paul says that it’s good for a man not to touch a woman, he means with something else in mind. It’s not just a simple hug or touching somebody. That’s not what he’s talking about, except within the marriage bonds. There is a definite distinction.
I want to remind the parents, that if you don’t make that distinction with your children as you’re raising them up, of what immoralities are in verse 2 and what sexual intimacy is in marriage which Paul talks about in all of those verses, then that’s going to follow your child into their marriage relationship one day, and it’s going to pervert their whole view of what God says is right and what God designed for His people.
Well, beginning in verse 8, the apostle Paul seemed to shift gear. In verses 1-7, “Should I marry or remain single?” was based on a perverted understanding of what sexual intimacy was all about, even in marriage. But in verse 8, it’s different. It’s more the idea, “Can I marry or should I remain single?”
The first group he mentions in verse 8, as we read, are the unmarried. He says in verse 8, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.”
Who are these unmarried? There are three terms in chapter 7 that caught my eye as I studied the whole chapter. First of all are the unmarried; secondly, the widows; thirdly are the virgins mentioned in verse 25, those who have never had sexual experience, those who have never been married. Now, that’s interesting to me, because it comes back to answering the question of who are the unmarried he speaks of in verse 8. He only addresses two verses to the unmarried and to the widows, and then in verse 10 he goes on to the married. Who are these unmarried?
The term “unmarried” is the word agamos. A means without, and gamos has to do with wedding or marriage; in other words, without marriage, not being married. It’s only found four times in the New Testament, all four times right here in this chapter. I believe the term defines itself as to who the unmarried are. I’ll tell you who I think they are, and I’ll show you why I think that. I think they are the divorced people who are writing questions to Paul and saying, “Can we marry or should we remain single?” He was talking about people who have never been married before, but here he’s talking about people who are in the state of not being married now, but have been in marriage. Then he adds widows to that, which have been married, but are in a different state of circumstances because of the death of a spouse.
Look down in verses 10-11 in chapter 7 and we see the second time it’s used. It says in verse 10, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband,” then in verse 11 in parenthesis he puts, “(but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried.).” That’s the same word, agamos. There the word is used in relationship to somebody who has been married before. They’re divorced and they have left their husband. So the term “unmarried” fits our description here.
In verse 32 there’s no clear distinction, although it’s used there. But look in verse 34. Verse 34 to me is even the clearest understanding that the group of people he’s addressing are the divorced people and the widows. Let me show you why. He has to qualify the term unmarried in verse 34. Why would he have to qualify that if it meant the same thing in both places? Look at what it says in verse 34. In the New American Standard it says, “and his interests are divided.” The translators are connecting the little word in that verse that means divide back to verse 33. I’m not going to mire you up into that, but they did a little different thing than what the King James translators did. I’ll show you that in a moment. “[A]nd his interests are divided. And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin [now, that’s the same person here. Why? Look at the verb. It’s singular] is concerned.” Not “are”; we’re not talking about two people. The unmarried person here, he qualifies as a virgin, somebody who’s never been married, somebody who’s never had any sexual experience in their life. “[T]hat she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”
The King James Version to me even makes it more clear. The King James Version in the same verse says, “There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.” Then it says, “The unmarried woman,” referring directly to the virgin here, “cares for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married [referring to the wife], cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”
My point is this, if unmarried in verse 8 is the same as unmarried in verse 34, why is it that Paul had to qualify it and put the fact that this unmarried person is a virgin? She’s without sexual experience. She’s without marriage in the past. You see, there are obviously two situations here. In verse 8 he’s dealing with those who have been divorced, have been married and are now in the state of not being married. But in verse 34 he’s dealing with a lady who has never been married, never had any sexual experience in her life.
To further my case that he’s talking about the divorced and the widowed, he adds the widows to it. Why would he do that? He says to the unmarried and to the widows, “I say to remain in the state that I’m in.” Why would he say that? Well, he could be doing what God has done all through Scripture. He always honors the orphan and the widow. God says, as a matter of fact, in Psalms 68:5, the psalmist speaks of God that He is a father of the fatherless and a judge of the widows. He’s God in His holy habitation. That’s the character of God. God especially ministers to these two groups of people because they have no help. God becomes a father and a husband, if you please, to those who are widowed. He becomes the fulfillment, the satisfaction, and the sufficiency to these people when the one they depended upon has been taken out of their life.
He could be doing that. Paul could just be saying, “Hey, out of the unmarried, there are the widows.” But he could be doing something else. This, to me, supports what I’ve been trying to say. He could be distinguishing between the widows and the divorced; because both of them had been married before, but they’re unmarried now, but because of different circumstances. The widow is unmarried because of the death of a spouse. To no fault of her own, her husband is dead, and, therefore, she’s a widow. However, the other person has been divorced. She’s been married. There was fault in this situation on someone’s part and now she is in the state of being unmarried. So to support my case and to follow that line, hoping there’s no holes in my waders as we wade into the water of 1 Corinthians 7, I believe in verses 8 and 9 he’s referring to those who have been married before and they’re asking the question, “Can we marry or should we remain single?” There are older widows, and these are people who have been divorced.
How do I know they’re older widows? 1 Timothy 5:14 says, “I say to the younger widows to get married, have children because that’s best for you.” So these have to be older widows, older people who their husband has been deceased. And he speaks to them in a very special way. There are several things I think we need to understand from his teaching here. Now, remember, there are three classes of being single which he addresses in chapter 7. One is single again, having been divorced. Two is single again, having been widowed. Three is single, never been married, a virgin, never had any sexual experience whatsoever. So the apostle Paul, answering the question addressed to him by these people, makes the statement, “it is good for them if they remain even as I.” He refers to his single state that he is in.
Let me throw something at you. You might want to chew on it. If that’s correct, and I think it is, then could Paul be saying that he was once married but perhaps has been divorced since he became a Christian from being a Pharisee or perhaps widowed? You say, “Where does that come from?” I just read the verse to you. “I say to the unmarried and to widows that you remain even as I.” “Even as I” is an important statement right there.
Many people think he was part of the Sanhedrin, and to be a part of the Sanhedrin you had to be married. So could Paul have been married? He says in Philippians, “I have suffered the loss of all things.” Could the “all things” happen to be a wife somewhere along the way? We don’t know that. By the way, I just said that to give myself a break and to see if you’re awake. There’s no way in the world you can prove that either way you go, so don’t jump on that and decide that you’re intelligent. You’re going to show how unintelligent you are by even taking up the argument. You cannot prove it. We don’t even know for a fact that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. So you have to be real careful how you handle stuff like that. However, it was fun to say.
Accept the fact that marriage is good
Alright, let’s look at the three principles that Paul is bringing to these people who have been divorced or been married before, widows. They ask, “Can we remarry or should we remain single?” First of all, Paul says to this particular group of people, “Accept the fact that marriage is good.” Now, we’ve got to understand that statement here. That’s what he says. He says, there in verse 8, “to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.”
“It’s good for you.” I’m already feeling some of you saying, “Yeah, that’s good for Paul to say and for you to say, but I’ve got a different slant on that whole thing.” Let’s look at it. There are two things we need to be reminded of that we’ve already studied in verses 6 and 7. One, that in verse 6, Paul showed us that it is not a command to get married. Even though marriage is God’s idea, it’s His idea, it is not a command. God never makes a command, “Yes, you get married.” No, that’s not the way it works. He leads each one of us individually to the fact of whether we’re married or whether we’re single. Understand that. If you’re not married, you’re not breaking some command of God.
Secondly, in verse 7 of chapter 7, he said in the last part of the verse that being married is a gift and being single is a gift. With the gift goes the grace enablement to bear up under whatever state that we’re in. Paul knew this grace. He says in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself.” This is why he says to them in verse 7, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am.” Many people have translated that to mean that Paul says, “I wish you were all single.” That makes no sense whatsoever. Being single or being married was never the focus of the apostle Paul. Paul’s focus was to be a vessel usable to Christ as long as he lived. That’s all he wanted to be, a vessel usable to Christ as long as he lived, surrendered to Christ. That’s all the focus of Paul.
Paul is saying, “Listen, those of you who are single, if you would spend as much time developing a relationship with Christ as you do looking for a mate, and people who are married, if you would spend as much time developing intimacy with Christ before you expressed intimacy with one another, then we could rid ourselves of all these questions. I wish you were all like I am.” That’s what he’s saying. Whatever state you find yourself, let Jesus be the focus of your life. Let Jesus be your sufficiency. Let Jesus be your fulfillment. That’s what he was saying.
In verse 8, having said that, he now addresses those who had been married before and are now in an unmarried state. He takes that truth right into the verse. He wants them to see, not only is it good, it’s a gift. When he says, “even as I,” he refers to the fact that he is single and he’s saying, “Listen, it’s good for you to remain even as I am. It’s good for you. God’s will is always good.” This is what’s difficult to hear sometimes.
It says in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Now, in this perfect will of God, in this good will of God that renders some people unmarried who have been married before, we find the widows. That’s a very sensitive thing. To the widow, God is saying to you, “I love you, but I have chosen out of the goodness of my heart to take your loved one on through the valley of the shadow of death before you have to walk through it. But I want you to know I’m orchestrating your circumstances. I am there to be your sufficiency. Wrap yourself around Me. Surrender yourself to Me and follow Me and discover the joys of being about My business until I come for you.” So it’s a good thing. To widows, it’s not as if God’s out to get you. He’s not out to hurt you. He says it’s a good thing that you are unmarried. He didn’t say that it’s a painless thing. He said it’s a good thing.
The point is, if you’re unmarried for whatever reason, do not fight it. Receive it as a gift from God. You see, that’s our problem. What God says is good, we say is bad. You see, we have to see it from our point of view. That’s what humanistic thinking does. That’s exactly what it does. Humanistic reasoning always questions what God does. But if we back off of that and receive it as a gift, call it what God calls it, it’s good, it’s profitable for me, then we begin to understand the truth of what Paul is saying. You must accept your being unmarried as a good gift from God and with it receive the enablement that comes with the gift.
The word for gift in verse 7 is charisma. It has to do with the giver, the heart of the gift, the gift itself, the divine enablement that accompanies the gift. It’s all in one package. So this state that you’re in, whether you’re married or whether you’re single, is a gift by God; and in that gift is the enablement to bear up under it, to endure it, and to live fulfilled in Christ until He changes your situation. Therefore, the state of being unmarried has your best in mind. God allows it in your life. He either orchestrated it or allowed it for your good. It’s the best for you.
Now, the word for good is very important to understand. It’s the word kalos. In this context, and several I’m going to show you, it has the idea of meaning profitable. It’s profitable for you. Again, he didn’t say it’s painless, but he said it’s profitable for you.
Go over to Matthew 18:8. I want to show you how this word is used as meaning profitable and, again, not painless but profitable. Matthew 18:8 says, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you [kalos, that’s the word right there], to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire.” Verse 9 uses the same analogy. “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you, kalos, to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.”
Now go back to 1 Corinthians and look in chapter 9 and verse 15. He uses this word again in the sense of being profitable for you. If you’re unmarried today but you’ve been married before, whether you’re a widow or you’ve been divorced, understand it’s good for you to be unmarried. It is profitable for you to be unmarried in the state that you’re in. It’s even a gift and God gives you the enablement to bear up under it. First Corinthians 9:15 says, “But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case; for it would be better for me, kalos, to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.” So, the word means to profit somebody. When Paul says, “It’s good for you to remain even as I,” he’s not saying it’s painless; he’s saying it is profitable for you.
Now, profitable for what? He says, “even if you remain as I.” The word “remain” is the word that means to abide in something. When my parents wanted me to stay still, they would say to me, “Wayne Allen,” and my daddy would draw an imaginary circle and say, “Wayne Allen, you stay right inside this circle and don’t you move.” In other words, you stay there. It’s going to be profitable for you to stay there, to remain inside that circle, to remain unmarried as the text is telling us. It is profitable to remain.
I can hear the wheels turning. You’re either widowed or you’ve been married before and you’re unmarried right now and you’re saying, “Yeah, profitable. What do you mean profitable?” Let’s let the Scripture speak for itself. Look down in verse 32 of chapter 7. Paul shows you one of the ways in which it profits you to remain unmarried. Can I marry or remain single? The apostle Paul is saying, “Hey, if you’re unmarried, having been married before, it’s better to stay in the state that you’re in.” Why can it be better? How can it be profitable for me? He says in verse 32, “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” In other words, there’s nothing hindering him. There’s nothing pulling his attention from this to that. He lives his life totally focused on pleasing the Lord.
Does that mean a married person can’t do that? No, no; that’s not what Paul is saying. We understand exactly what he’s saying. If you’re married, I’m sure you have a perfect wife or a perfect husband. I’m sure you have a perfect finance’, and I’m sure you have perfect children and I’m sure that your whole life is just spent in one merry, wonderful time of just pleasing the Lord. Yeah, right. If you say it is, I want to talk to you. We need to get your interview on tape, because you’re the only one I’ve ever known who’s that way.
The apostle Paul is not saying it’s impossible, but he’s saying when you’re married, there are a million things that can pull you off the track from just serving the Lord. But if you’re single, it’s profitable. You can wrap yourself up in Christ. You can just surrender to Him, focus on Him, be about His work and nothing hinders you in any way. It’s profitable for you to remain single.
My mother was 55 years old when my father was taken. He was sixty when he went on to be with the Lord. I was 23. For the next 15 years Mom had sort of like seasons which came into her life. The first five years she grieved. Oh, she grieved at my dad’s death. Grief is a clean wound, but it takes times to heal. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not sinful. That’s just reality. I remember one day when she had come down with leukemia and she was in the hospital and she called me. She said, “Wayne, the most awesome thing just happened to me.” I said, “What happened, Mom?” Because every time I called it was what was wrong and everything was bad and I got to where I didn’t even want to call home any more because she was so depressed. She said, “Wayne, it was like Jesus was in the room with me today. The room was so filled with the glory of God. Wayne, I wept and wept and wept. It was like God just came into my room to let me know it’s okay.”
She said to me, “Wayne, it was like God said to me, ‘Everything is okay. I am everything you need. You don’t need anything else.’” Do you know what we were doing as her kids? Running around trying to play cupid. We thought it was cute. We’re trying to find Mama a mate. Mother didn’t want a mate. Mother didn’t need a mate. Mother needed to learn what Paul said, “It’s good for you to be unmarried. You can focus in on Him and find a fulfillment you have never, ever know before.” We always jump to conclusions.
Paul says, “Hey, I didn’t say it was going to be painless. I’m telling you it’s profitable for you to remain even as I am.” So if you’ve been married before, understand it can be profitable for you to remain unmarried. Stop trying to help everybody get married. If God wants it, God will order it. Leave them alone. Let God be their sufficiency.
Accept the fact that your sexual desires must be under control
The second thing he says here, not only to accept the fact that being unmarried is good, but to be unmarried they must accept the fact that their sexual desires must be absolutely under control. I want you to understand something. Every question you have is not going to be answered here. You’ve got to realize Paul was being asked questions that were written in to him. He’s trying to give them an answer.
Have you ever been in that situation? I go into meetings all the time and they say, “Wayne, will you let us ask you some questions?” I do that periodically, and all of a sudden I’m giving answers and I’m thinking as I’m answering it, “Good night! I’m not covering this at all. Man, there are so many other things I wish I had said.” That’s 1 Corinthians 7. This is not a complete teaching on anything. However, it gives us some sound principles to stand upon.
He says in verse 9, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.” Now, that’s interesting. After telling them that it’s profitable for them to remain unmarried, he turns right around and puts a balance into his teaching by bringing up some stark reality.
Folks, he says, “But if they do not have self-control.” The “they” refers to the unmarried. The word “self-control” means to be in authority over something, so much so that you control it. Of course, what he’s talking about is their sexual desires. In the secular Greek, it’s not only used in sexual appetites, but it’s used in physical appetites like going on a diet. They had no control over their physical appetites. Well, here is the appetite for sex. And he says, “Hey, if you’re going to remain single, it’s profitable, but you’ve got to remember something. You’ve got to be in control of your sexual desires because you’re going to have them and you’re going to have to learn how to control them and how to live with them.”
You see, we’ve got to learn God gave us sexual desires. However, sin perverted them. I had a young person come to me in a camp one time. He said, “Man, that’s great! I lust and that’s okay, because God gave me that lust.” I said, “He did not. He gave you a pure, righteous, sexual desire and sin perverted it and made it into lust.” That’s what we’ve got to understand. God didn’t make us the way we are, but He did give us the sexual desires. The fact that we have sinned made us the way we are. That’s why we have to let Jesus overcome us daily, which is the message of grace we preach. Here’s all the proof that you need of the intensity of the sexual desire in a person. It must be put under control.
Any one who has studied Romans 6 and 7 know that the apostle Paul had to deal with the desires of his flesh but he learned how to live up under grace and the controlling power of the Holy Spirit of God. The natural man is what you and I were before we got saved, and the natural man was given sexual desires. It was already perverted after Adam sinned in Genesis 3.
Look back in 1 Corinthians 2:14. It’s important that we see this. He says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Now, he has these sexual appetites, but he has no control over them because he can’t receive the things of God. Only God can give us victory over the perversion of our sexual desires. Only He can make them right. Only He can channel them the right way.
The word “natural” in verse 14 of 1 Corinthians 2 translates the Greek word, psuchikos which comes from the word psuche, which means soul. The psuche is the part of man that is immaterial that enables him to relate to the natural world around him. In other words, it’s the animalistic part of us. Animals have the same type of things. They have instincts. They have an ability to relate to the world that’s around them. The thing that separates us from all other creation is that God has given us a spirit, and it’s in our spirit His spirit comes to dwell.
A natural man, when he’s not in control of his desires, lives as an animal. He satisfies his sexual desires any time any way he wants to with nobody giving any control over it, just like a dog would in a pack. That’s the man without Christ. That’s all he has. He cannot control these desires. They’ve been perverted because of sin. That’s why Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple”. That word for “life” there is this little word psuche.
What He’s saying is unless man is willing to put that which is the animalistic part of him under the control of the Holy Spirit of God, how in the world does he think he can be My disciple? He can’t follow me obeying the whim of every desire that he has. He’s got to be willing to lay that down. He’s got to be willing to turn his back on that. He’s got to be willing to just surrender and focus upon Me. We live in bodies that have sexual desires and when we are not under the control of God the Holy Spirit these desires are free to be expressed as they will.
Now, back in our text the word in verse 9 for “if” is a very important word. He says, “if anyone cannot control his desires.” The “if” there is a hypothetical “if.” He’s referring to the unmarried. He’s saying that some of these people who are unmarried have been married before, whether widowed or divorced, and they’re not going to be able to conquer these sexual desires that they now have. Now, that’s an oxymoron to say they can’t, because they can. You know what an oxymoron is. It’s interesting how you put those two truths together. They have the victory. The victory is Christ. The problem is they won’t live in it. They just won’t. They choose not to. As a result of that, they’re constantly stumbling and stumbling because of this sexual desire that burns within them. There are going to be that exception to the rule. There are going to be those. That’s just reality. I wish I could say that every Christian lives in the victory God has for them. But every Christian doesn’t live that way. He says, “But if they do not have self-control.”
The word “not” is the absolute word for not. It means if they do not in any way, shape, or form have it. Again, I said, that’s an oxymoron because they do, but they don’t live as if they do. So Paul is balancing this statement that he has made back in verse 8. To the divorced, the widowed, accept the fact that being unmarried is good. But we also must accept the fact that the sexual desires of our flesh must be under control.
Let me suggest something to you that I think proves the fact that he’s talking to people who have been married before in verses 8 and 9. The virgin of verse 25 of chapter 7 has sexual desires, yes, but they have never been awakened by sexual experience. There’s a big difference, huge difference. Which one do you think is going to have the most difficulty controlling their sexual desire, the person who’s never experienced anything or the person who’s lived married and had those desires awakened and now is unmarried and having to deal with those desires?
I love the works I have read about Peter Marshall. He’s dead now. His wife, Catherine Marshall, wrote a book and in her book I so applaud her for her honesty and her vulnerability. She said that one of the biggest battles she had to face was the awakened sexual desires that she had, married to her late husband, that now cannot be satisfied.
The apostle Paul says, “It is profitable for you to remain as I.” But I want to tell you something, the hard truth. You’re going to have to learn to overcome those sexual desires. There are going to be some of you who aren’t going to do it. You can, oh, yes. It will be your choice. And for those he’s going to go on and say, “It’s better for you to marry.”
So the first thing is to accept the fact that being unmarried is good. Secondly, accept the fact if you’re going to remain unmarried you must have your sexual desires under control. He speaks of the gift of singleness and I think that means continued singleness. And if God’s given you that, He gives you the enablement to overcome that. Paul had it so others can have it. But you see, you’ve got to live in it. Those who don’t have it, he puts them in a little different category here, not necessarily good or bad, but a different category.
Accept the fact that marriage is the only place to satisfy these desires
Now we move into the next part of what he says. First of all, accept the fact that being unmarried is good. Secondly, accept the fact that your sexual desires must be under control while single. Thirdly, Paul is saying to the unmarried that you must accept the fact that marriage is the only place where these sexual desires may be fulfilled. In other words, marriage for you may be more profitable than for you to remain unmarried. When he says that it’s better to marry, let them marry, you have to remember something here—I keep having to interject this—only as that marriage meets the qualifications of Scripture. That’s got to be understood.
Look down in verse 19. He’s speaking of circumcision there but I want you to see what he says. The last part of the verse is what’s important. These are external matters. Look at what he says here. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing [either way], but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” So when Paul says it’s better that he marry, or let him marry, he doesn’t nullify what he says in verse 19. It’s still got to be up under the guidelines of Scripture of what God says. If God raises up the person, if you meet the Scriptural qualifications to do that and remarry, that’s what he’s talking about. You say, “What are they?” Just hang on. That’s coming. I’ll be so glad to get out of chapter 7. I’m going to shout for a month. It’s coming.
Verse 9 says, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.” Now, the “let them marry” there in no way suggests, again, that marriage is only for the fulfilling of one’s sexual need. That’s the dumbest thought. I’ve heard people say that, “It’s better not to burn. Just go on and get married.” That’s dumb. “Let them marry” is in the aorist tense. Aorist tense means at a specific time, at a specific place, a specific commitment was made for all time and it was done once and for all and it’s over. Now, the next time you think that marriage is just a bedroom where you can fulfill your sexual desires, you just remember something. It’s for life, buddy. And when you join with that woman, it’s for life. Marriage is once for all. That’s what he’s saying. It’s a whole lot more than just satisfying sexual needs that he speaks of here. There’s much more to marriage than just that.
But he goes on to say, “let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.” The word for “burn” there means to ignite. It’s not just to burn; it’s to set a flame of fire and let it just roar away. It’s in the present tense so it’s something that’s ongoing., whereas, marriage is aorist. It’s once and for all. This is something going on all the time, burning within. This is the unmarried person who has been married before and have had their sexual desires awakened. Now that they’re unmarried they burn all the time. That’s what he’s talking about.
The word for “better” is the word that has the idea of being profitable. It’s interesting to me. He says, “It’s profitable for you to remain single.” Then he says, “But you better keep your sexual desires under control.” Then he says, “There are some of you who seem to not be able to do that. It’s better for you [same term] that you marry.” So, whereas, what’s good for one may not be good for the other, it depends on where you are living fulfilled and in the victory that God has given to you.
Well, “to marry” is in the aorist tense; “to burn” is in the present tense. So remember the difference there. It’s better to marry, once and for all. Settle it and do what God’s led you to do, the one whom God’s offered to you and if the circumstances allow for it and if God’s Word is being honored. Go on and get married. Yes, go on and get married. It’s better for you because you seem to have a difficulty over here. It’s better than to keep that lustful burning going on inside of you all the time. Marriage is the only place where sexual desires can be fulfilled. So if you’re not going to deal with them and die to them, then marriage is that area. It’s not because of that but it’s the only place they can be fulfilled.
Well, what have we learned? Hopefully there’s not too many holes in these waders as we wade in this Scripture. By the way, I don’t pick what verse is next. We just go verse by verse, word for word. And like I said, the next section is even going to get deeper, so bring me some patches so I can patch up the holes in these waders. Accept the fact that being unmarried is profitable. He didn’t say painless. Accept the fact that sexual desire must be under control. And accept the fact that marriage is the only place where sexual desires may be fulfilled. But it must meet the guidelines of God.
Well, we waded into the waters. It’s kind of cold. It takes my breath. But again, I’m so glad that what’s over my head is under His feet. Don’t say, “Well, Wayne said it. It must be right.” No, sir; you take the Word as the Bereans. Search it out to see if these things be so. But study the whole chapter, because you won’t get the truth out of two verses. Find out what you think or who these unmarried are. Come up with your own conclusions. If you think I’m wrong, let me know. We’ll correct it; because the Word is truth, I’m not. I’m not inerrant; the Word is. But I’ll tell you what. I think we’ve got a point here. It’s going to be difficult to refuse. To those who are unmarried, God orchestrated your circumstance. He knows what’s best for you and He says that it’s profitable for you. Now learn to live up under the grace that He’s given to you. He does give an exception to it but it’s got to meet the guidelines that God has for it.