Having a P.C. Marriage

May 11, 2017 at 11:29 am | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

I Corinthians 7:25-26

“Virgins” in Verse 25 means young women of marriageable age who have not yet married. “I have no Commandment of the Lord” means that Paul did not have a direct quote from Jesus, even though He still wrote with inspired authority. This goes back to the beginning of I Corinthians Chapter 7: given the persecution faced by the Christians in Corinth, and, really, throughout the early chruch, there were definite advantages to being single. And, keeping in mind the previous section on how salvation in Christ Jesus does not automatically change our earthly identity or legal status or career calling, we can say that, even for those who are already married, it is good to:

I. Know Your Present Condition

Use your condition to deal with the present distress. If you are single and facing persecution, consider remaining single. If you are married and facing persecution, remain married. Do not let the present distress change your condition or your commitment.

II. Know Your Permanent Commitment

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

I Corinthians 7:27

This does not sound like very romantic language. To be “bound” sounds like slavery and to be “loosed” sounds like freedom, and it may feel that way at times, but we are not to be regulated by our feelings. We are to be regulated by the Word of God and our commitments and covenant promises.

III. Know Your Painful Circumstances

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

I Corinthians 7:28

Again, the Holy Spirit through Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about the difficulties of marriage in a time of intense persecution, but the Bible never condemns marriage itself.

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

I Corinthians 7:29

This is a sobering thought for unmarried young men and women, but it is also a strong reminder for the married that we are not promised bliss. In a world that hates Christ our Lord things are bound to get rough.

And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

I Corinthians 7:30-31

Marriage ought to be permanent in this life, whether it be joyful or excruciating, but it is not eternal. The good things we do in Christ will be rewarded in eternity, and the suffering we endure at the hands of those who abuse the relationships and institutions of this world ordained by God WILL come to an end.

IV. Know Your Persistent Care

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

I Corinthians 7:32-34

We know that worry and anxiety can be considered sinful, but there are things about which we are commanded to be concerned. And, the reality is, for those who did not remain single, we have a holy obligation to care for our spouses – to be concerned about them, and to see to their needs as best we can with God’s help.

V. Know Your Profitable Contention

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

I Corinthians 7:35

These warnings against marriage are not given just to encourage confused or frustrated single people. They are also intended to be heeded by married couples to remind us that there is profit in caring for a sinner, and to remind us that, as a spouse, I too am a sinner that had to be cared for by Jesus. There will always be distractions from the work of the Lord. Those who are unmarried must think carefully before adding another distraction. Those who are married must remember that distractions are given to us by God not to annoy us, but to help sanctify us. Marriage can be seen as a snare or it can be seen as a safe workshop.

Know Your Real Identity

May 3, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

I Corinthians 7:17

Eternal salvation in Christ Jesus changes who you are as a person, but it does not take away your non-sinful abilities. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “… so I ordain in all churches,” he may have been telling the Corinthian Christians that “this is what I say wherever I go,” or, more likely, “I want this command to be given in all the churches,” which would indicate that he knew this letter would be binding on the Church as canonical Scripture.

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

I Corinthians 7:18

Salvation doesn’t take away your ethnicity.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

I Corinthians 7:19

You can imagine Paul’s secretary gasping as he hears Paul dictate, “Circumcision is nothing,” because circumcision was the most fundamental sign of the Old Covenant. In context, the Holy Spirit through Paul was not really forbidding the practice of circumcision for gentiles; obviously, you can’t become “uncircumcised” (at least not in Paul’s day, though one shudders to think of the extent of “reconstructive” or “reassignment” surgeries they do today). What He was saying is that external marks on our bodies are no longer the signs of belonging to God. Now the sign is our changed hearts and what actions and words and attitudes flow out of them. If you are saved as Jew, you are still a Jew – a Jewish Christian. If you are saved as an Italian, you have to resign from the mafia, but you don’t have to stop eating pasta and saying fuggedaboutit. If you are saved as an Irishman, you have to stop drinking whiskey and starting bar fights, but you can keep wearing green. In fact, you should not try to change the outward too much – God may have called you so you can reach others like you.

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

I Corinthians 7:20-23

Salvation does not change your status as a servant. The Holy Spirit told the Corinthian Christians that there was no shame in being a slave, but it is to your advantage if you can obtain your freedom. Christ sets us free, but, because He bought us with a price, we still belong to Him. “Free slavery” is a paradox – and is found only in Christ, because He is the Master Who serves His servants, even as they serve Him. He is the Master Who loves His servants, calls us His brothers and sisters, and wants better things for us than we want for ourselves.

A Knowledgeable Marriage

April 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a previous post I discussed I Corinthians 7:1-10, and explained that, if you are married, God wants your marriage to be F.I.N.E., meaning that He wants the physical intimacy between you and your spouse to be frequent, inviting, natural, and exciting. He also wants you to know the real reason for your marriage.

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

I Corinthians 7:11

Marriage was designed by God to be permanent in this life.

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

I Corinthians 7:12

This is something which the Lord Jesus did not say in person during His earthly ministry, but it is just as authoritative since it is being said by the Holy Spirit through Paul. Believers should only marry other believers, but the failure to do so is not a ground for divorce, nor is the salvation of one spouse after the wedding, even when the other spouse refuses to get saved. Furthermore, the hostility of the unbelieving spouse toward the believing spouse because of his/her conversion is not a ground for divorce.

And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

I Corinthians 7:13-14

This does not mean that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the sense of salvation, but that he is set apart as part of a household with a Holy Spirit influence, and possibly the recipient of special blessings due to one-half of the one-flesh relationship being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Also, a nullification of the marriage would make the children illegitimate in a sense, and would damage the blessing of their exposure to strong Christian influence.

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

I Corinthians 7:15

This does not authorize divorce for abandonment, as many suppose. It simply prohibits hostile and forceful attempts to prevent physical separation.

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

I Corinthians 7:16

This is an obvious figure of speech, meaning that a Christ-like testimony in the face of opposition and even persecution within the household can often be instrumental in winning an unbelieving spouse to Christ. Remember, your marriage is not primarily for your happiness, for you, or even for your spouse. It is for God to use as a means to illustrate and preach the Gospel in an unbelieving world, and for means of our sanctification.

The Know-Nots view marriage as an institution of convenience or a societal contract. The Knows know that marriage is a holy covenant relationship ordained by God, and that the love between a husband and wife is supposed to be a picture of the love between Christ and His bride, the Church.

An Irascible Marriage

March 25, 2013 at 9:02 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area, surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations (I Corinthians 7:2-5). Here are the tactics we have identified so far by which he tries to break through our defenses:

1. Spies: Spies try to sneak through the wall by pretending to be our friends. They tell us that, for some reason, the area of sexual temptation is not going to be a problem in your marriage. We deal with these spies by identifying them and executing them with Scriptural ammunition (I Thessalonians 4:3-4).

2. Tunnelers: These are sent by Satan to burrow under the wall by preying on our concupiscible appetites (Colossians 3:5). We combat these by recognizing that our sensual appetites are gifts from God, but were created by Him to be exercised in the freeing confines of marriage only. Thereby, we whack them back down into their holes and pour Scriptural cement into the tunnel to stop them from coming back.

3. Wall-scalers: These assailants try to climb right up and over the wall. They attack our thought life with lies that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. We combat these assailants by pulling them down – by exposing vain speculations to the Truth of Scripture (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

The fourth area of attack comes in the form or assailants who are not as sneaky, tricky, or subtle as the other three. These are employed by Satan to try to simply batter down the walls. They are the siege engines of spiritual warfare. This is very different from how we normally expect Satan to attack. So far, all of our lessons on protecting your marriage in the area of intimacy have focused on defeating Satan the tempter – Satan the deceiver – for that is his primary tactic. But remember, he is also Satan the intimidator. Satan wants to intimidate you by bombarding you with so many lies that you begin to question God or to doubt His goodness or to be afraid to fight. If you back away from the protective walls of your marriage and hide in the compound, he will batter them down.

However, just like in the area of temptation, God has also equipped us to fight back in the area of intimidation. Satan the tempter tries to prey on our “concupiscible” appetites. Satan the intimidator would like to frighten us into forsaking our “irascible” appetites. (These terms come from my study of Scriptural principles which line up with some of the teachings of Thomas Aquinas.) Sensual appetites are pleasurable. Irascible appetites (or what I might call “reasonable” appetites) direct us toward objective good which we must discern by reason since they are not pleasurable. Satan is battering at the walls. There is a temptation to cower and drop out of the battle. Things like sexual immorality and temptation, as they are depicted and advertised on television, the tabloids, the internet, and other media can be dealt with to some extent by avoidance. But encounters with immodesty, enticement, and emotional predators must be dealt with more directly if, as married Christians, we are still going to participate in hands-on ministry. Married people have a protective wall, but it must not be a stationary wall. If our marriages are forts against sexual infidelity, they must be forts that travel. They must travel to hospitals, to the homes of those with needs, to the mission field, to the marketplace, to the job site, to church. Satan would like to accuse and intimidate you into being so scared of being “worldly” that you don’t venture out into the world at all.

But God says differently. In the next lesson we will take a look at three irascible appetites which God has given us to combat the accusations and intimidations of Satan as he attacks our marriages.

A Concupiscible Marriage

January 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area (Song of Solomon 4:12), surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. Our duty is to protect the entire perimeter from the devil’s attacks, but we want to concentrate our protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations. Here are the four principles we have highlighted so far:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.
4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Now, we will see that we must also:

5. Prepare to recognize attacks in the form of burrowing under the wall and popping up in the midst of your marriage.

Satan, in addition to trying to sneak his spies right through the wall protecting your marriage, will also send tunnelers to burrow under the wall. He does this when he attacks our thought life. I’m borrowing some of the ideas in this lesson from Thomas Aquinas, but only insofar as they line up with the Bible. We are fallen sinners, but Christians are redeemed fallen sinners. That means we have access to the grace of the Gospel. We are not “Gnostics.” We do not believe that only spiritual, non-physical things can be “good.” We believe that our souls have been redeemed and that our bodies have been redeemed (Romans 8:23), in the sense that they will one day be resurrected in a glorified form. The physical pleasures of the body – when viewed through Gospel redemption – are to be enjoyed in their set limits. But that’s only half the truth. The fuller-orbed reality is that, when true Christians enjoy these physical pleasures in their “set limits,” we actually have more freedom to enjoy them with more enjoyment. Do you see the tension? We think of “limits” as restricting freedom. But in God’s Gospel, His limitations actually “free” us up to be what He intended us to really be when He created us.

Now, here’s where Aquinas comes in, because he helps us to see the difference between our “concupiscible” appetites and our “irascible” appetites. For now, let’s leave aside the “irascible” (hopefully I’ll get to those in another session), and focus on the “concupiscible.”

Concupiscible appetites are mainly physical appetites which are very strong because of the physical pleasure they induce and (possibly) because of their ties to our vitality. Eating, drinking, and sex are things that almost all people have an appetite for, and they are all accompanied by sensations of strong physical pleasure. They also happen to be tied to the continuance of life (our “survival”).

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Colossians 3:5 (emphasis added)

The concupiscible appetite is not inherently evil, but it can become tainted by evil. It is not inherently evil because it was put in you by God. Adam and Eve needed to eat and drink before they sinned, and they were made in such a way that they would enjoy these things. Adam and Eve had a desire to procreate and to be sexual before they sinned, and they were made by God to enjoy the physical acts and sensations which lead to procreation. In the next lesson, I will identify a counter strategy to deal with Satan’s manipulation of our concupiscible appetites.

The Slave (His Owner and Overseer)

December 4, 2012 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Slave

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

The people of Zion were considered to be outcasts, and part of what led to them being outcasts was that they had been taken into captivity. They had been enslaved by another nation.

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.

Jeremiah 30:10 (emphasis added)

Being called a slave has a negative connotation in society today. One sibling says to another, “Could you go to my room and bring me my shoes,” and the reply comes back: “I’m not your slave!” Therefore, it might sound strange to us when someone invites us to become God’s “slaves.” The most common word in the Bible for a slave is “servant.” Historians estimate that in New Testament times approximately one-third of all the inhabitants of Greece and Italy were slaves. There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Many of the first believers in the New Testament were slaves. Slavery in the United States is illegal today (unless you count some of the housewives or church custodians I know!) But when it comes to being a slave, or a servant, there is no shame in being a servant of the Most High God.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

I Corinthians 7:22

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Romans 1:1 (emphasis added)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

James 1:1 (emphasis added)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

II Peter 1:1 (emphasis added)

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Jude v. 1 (emphasis added)

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

Revelation 1:1 (emphasis added)

Even the Old Testament saints carried this designation:

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 15:3 (emphasis added)

I want to look specifically at the account of a man named Onesimus, who was a slave in the earthly sense and a slave in the spiritual sense. He is found in the Book of Philemon. The Book is called “Philemon” not because it was written by Philemon, but because it is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon. Philemon was a Colossian believer who owned a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus ran away. We don’t know the reason why. It may have been because he had stolen something from his master, or it may have been because Philemon, as a Christian, had become too lenient on him, and Onesimus took advantage of the situation to plan his escape. Philemon made his way to Rome, which would have been a good place to hide, but there he encountered the Apostle Paul, who led him to Christ.

Paul himself was a prisoner at Rome, but he had a certain amount of freedom to spread the Gospel, and apparently he treasured his relationship with Onesimus. The name “Onesimus” meant “useful,” and the name “Philemon” meant “one who kisses.” If you have ever been made a little uncomfortable by a fellow church member who was little too touchy-feely and huggy-kisssy in his greetings to you at church, you may be surmising that this was the real reason Onesimus ran away!

Despite bearing the name “useful,” though, as a runaway slave Onesimus turned out to be anything but useful to his master. Conversely, as a servant to God, Onesimus became extremely useful. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to make something of a play on words about this in his letter:

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

Philemon v. 1

Onesimus escaped from his own bonds, and ended up helping Paul – and the work of the Lord – in Paul’s bonds.

Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

Philemon v. 11

Paul wrote to Philemon as if to say, “Old ‘Useful’ was useless to you, but he’s been useful to me – he’s finally living up to his name!”

Whether someone is a slave (servant) to Christ, or whether someone was an earthly slave with an earthly master – and Onesimus was both – three main things determine a slave’s “usefulness:”

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.

See, before Onesimus was saved by Jesus, he wasn’t just owned by Philemon. He was in a greater bondage than the bondage of earthly slavery. Just like you and me, he was a slave to sin, and in a sense he was owned by Satan.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

I Peter 1:18-19

If you are truly a Christian, that means you were “redeemed.” “Redemption” is the act of purchasing a slave out of slavery. There is a price that was paid for your redemption. It wasn’t a monetary price, and it certainly wasn’t your own good works. Redemption in Jesus Christ doesn’t cost us anything, but it is not free. The price of redemption for the unforgiven sinner, the slave of Satan, is the precious blood of Christ. As the once-popular hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

A slave owned by the devil, bound with the cords of sin, is completely useless to the work of the Lord, but a servant of God, rightfully purchased, set free, and then lovingly owned by the One Who created him in the first place, is very useful.

2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

An overseer is under a slave-owner, but over the slave. An overseer is responsible for watching a slave work on an everyday basis. A slave knows who his owner is, but he knows his overseer personally. Before Onesimus was saved, when he was a servant in the household of Philemon, he had an earthly overseer. After he met the Apostle Paul, and became converted, Paul in a sense became his “overseer.” As servants of God – even though we serve Him directly – He has placed overseers over us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

As an earthly slave, Onesimus betrayed his overseer by running away, and maybe worse.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

Philemon v. 18

But as a servant of God, Philemon was a great blessing to his overseer.

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Philemon v. 13

Next time we will see that the obligations of a slave also determine his usefulness.

Getting Busy in Marriage

November 19, 2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

As Christians we do not have to wonder whether or not Satan is going to attack our marriages. There is absolutely no doubt that he will. If he has already attacked your marriage, you know that it is not a pleasant thing – but it is a fact. Thankfully, the Bible is very straightforward in telling us that we do not have to be caught off-guard by his attacks.

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

II Corinthians 2:11

Because we have the Bible, we do not have to be ignorant. I want to be very specific and narrow down what I am talking about here:

1. Because we are not ignorant, we know that he attacks in two ways:
a. As a tempter (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:7)
b. As an accuser (Revelation 12:10; Matthew 12:10)

2. When he attacks as an accuser, he makes two types of accusations against us:
a. Slanderous accusations (John 8:44)
b. Truthful accusations (Zechariah 3:1-5)

3. He makes these accusations against us in two places:
a. In our consciences (I Chronicles 21:1)
b. Before the Throne of God (Job 1)

4. He makes these accusations for three reasons:
a. To destroy our peace – both internally and with God (Luke 22:31)
b. To cause us to doubt God’s goodness and truth (Genesis 3:4-5; Luke 4:3)
c. To paralyze us with fear (Matthew 16:21-23)

When it comes to our marriages he attacks in all these areas, but, according to II Corinthians 7:5, he attacks our marriages more as a tempter than an accuser: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (Emphasis added.)

I like to imagine my marriage as an enclosed area with a well-defined perimeter. Satan wants to breach that perimeter. As a Christian spouse, my responsibility is to protect the entire perimeter, but, Biblically, I’ve been told that I need to concentrate my protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused.

In the Bible, cities were often surrounded by a protective wall with different “gates” which were the entry- and exit- points to and from the city. In marriage, one of these sections of the wall is “communication;” one is “finances;” one is “career;” one is “ministry;” one is “parenting;” and one is “sexual intimacy.” According to the Bible, Satan’s attack is going to be most concentrated at the gate and area of the wall devoted to sexual intimacy.

When I Corinthians 7:5 uses the term “incontinency” it refers to a lack of self-control, and its specific reference is to sexual relations. The previous lesson contained an acronym – “F.I.N.E.” – which dealt with promoting the Biblical ideal for sexual intimacy in marriage:

F.requent
I.nviting
N.atural
E.xciting

I’m sorry to be crude, but when I was in college there was a slang term for sexual relations called “getting busy.” The fact is, if you are not getting busy in your marriage, then Satan is! This is not an easy topic to talk about, but Satan is real. I hate to admit it, but he is stronger than I am. And he is smarter than I am. He’s no match for my Lord and my Best Friend, but if I try to take him on in my own strength, he will sift me like wheat, embarrass me, and chase me right out of my blessings, peace, and assurance, putting me to shame. Recognizing that, here are the first three steps to shoring up and fortifying the defensive and protective wall against temptation in the area of sexual intimacy in marriage:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

In the next lesson we will learn how to recognize Satan in his craftiness.

Having a F.I.N.E. Marriage

November 5, 2012 at 11:14 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a previous lesson I looked at some verses from I Corinthians 7, as they relate to remaining single or getting married.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

I Corinthians 7:1-2

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

I Corinthians 7:32-37

Let me sum up the “practical application” of these verses: The temptation of fornication in the form of premarital sex can be remedied by marriage. There is no other legitimate outlet for taking care of those desires.

That is a lesson that we parents must hammer into the souls of our children – even though they may be living in the midst of a generation where they will be the only ones who believe or practice it. We must also hammer into our own souls that physical intimacy in marriage is not a block to fornication or adultery – but that it is a safeguard.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:3-5

For maximum effectiveness, marital intimacy must be F.I.N.E.

F.requent: “Due benevolence” means what is “owed.” You owe it to your spouse to satisfy him or her sexually within Scriptural limits. Failure to do so is fraud – unless it is mutually consensual – and then it must be for spiritual reasons and only for a short time.

I.nviting: Because my body belongs to God, I must keep it healthy. Because – on a secondary level – my body belongs to my spouse, I ought to try to keep it attractive.

N.atural: “Render unto” means it is done willingly – which also means it should not be contrary to emotions. Our emotions must be brought into conformity with truth. God says physical intimacy in marriage is “good,” so we need to believe it is good. If we believe it is good, we will start to feel like it is good.

E.xciting: Although “due benevolence” is a duty, it is not merely a duty.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

I Corinthians 7:9 (emphasis added)

It is “better” to marry than to “burn” when you are engaged to be married. But, once married, it is great to burn. “Burn” means passion and excitement: Song of Solomon-type, exuberant, looking-forward-to-it-almost-all-day-every-day-type passion. I highly recommend a recent movie called Fireproof, which is about “fireproofing” your marriage against divorce. The fires of marital discord are horrible and should be guarded against. “Controlled burning,” though, is something completely different. It is a passionate, mutual burning that is the result of a Scripturally-prescribed fire that you know is going to be quenched within the God-ordained bounds of marriage. This is embarrassing to talk about, but that type of “quenching,” and the physical pleasure attendant to it, is one of God’s greatest temporal gifts to His children. But there has to be fire for there to be quenching. “Better to marry than to burn” doesn’t mean the burning stops after the honeymoon. It means that God has now authorized the burning because there is a safe, God-ordained way to start and stop the fires of passion, and that way is physical intimacy in marriage.

Fooling Around with Celibacy in Marriage

October 19, 2012 at 9:45 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

I Corinthians 7:1 (emphasis added)

The expression “touch a woman” in this verse is mostly a euphemism for sexual touching. Taken literally and out of context it would mean no male doctors could examine female patients. No male police officers could apprehend law-breaking females. Men wouldn’t be able to hug their moms or sisters. They couldn’t even hold their wives’ hands! However, even with the understanding that “touching” is a euphemism for sexual contact, the verse still poses a problem if taken out of context. After all, a “wife” is, of necessity, a “woman.” So the verse has to be understood in context. Both the context of the verse within the particular subject addressed in this passage of Scripture, and the meaning implied by the Greek word translated as “touch,” cause us to understand that what is being prohibited is the sexual touching of a woman by anyone other than her husband.

The reason, though, that I stressed the expression as being mostly euphemistic is because it does have some literal practical application. Too much man-woman touching (even just literal touching) is not good outside of a lawful relationship (such as blood relatives and spouses.) Obviously in marriage it is not evil to touch the woman who is your wife. In fact, touching in that arena is both honorable and undefiled (Hebrews 13:4).

So here is the point being made in I Corinthians 7:1: It is good to be single. Now, if you don’t apply logic, you will think that “it’s good to be single” means “it’s bad to be married,” but I’m a big believer in applying logic as part of interpreting Scripture. After all, God is the One Who created logic.

Premise: X is good.
Conclusion: Non-X is bad.

That conclusion seems to make sense, but it’s not technically logical because more than one thing can be good. Some things can be good in certain contexts and bad in other contexts. I Corinthians 7:8 expresses the same sentiment: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” (Emphasis added.) When something is good, its alternative is not always bad. Furthermore, X can be good in a certain context, and not always be good.

It is good to be single – if you are single for the right reasons. What is a good reason to be single? To concentrate on a life dedicated to serving the Lord. What are some reasons for being single that are not good, even though the world today (and in the Apostle Paul’s day) tells us they are good reasons?

1. To be free from commitment
2. To enjoy inordinate affection (Colossians 3:5)
3. To enjoy multiple partners in intimacy
4. To escape responsibility
5. To avoid adulthood
6. To avoid having children in order to avoid trying to make disciples for Christ
7. To become more focused on self
Those are wrong reasons for seeking to remain unmarried as an adult.

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

I Corinthians 7:32-35

Married people owe duties and responsibilities to their spouses, so there is a sense in which a single person is free from being a servant. This is not really a freedom from slavery – it is really the freedom to be a slave to Jesus. The reason these points about “singleness” are relevant in a Bible study about marriage is so we can see that singleness is a good gift from God, but that, if you are married, you do not have that gift! It is a gift that entails celibacy, and, as a Christian person who is married, I am not to “fool around” with celibacy!

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

I Corinthians 7:7

Without the gift of celibacy, there was only one option for me: getting married.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

I Corinthians 7:2

Faithful monogamous marriage is the only Biblical, obedient, God-ordained, and Christ-honoring option for the person without the gift of celibacy.

Now, let’s get logical again. Marriage – according to I Corinthians 7:2 – is an alternative to fornication. Therefore, is a desire to fornicate a good reason to get married? (We’re differentiating here between the alternatives – the escape routes – and the motivation.) Yes, in a sense, it is an escape route from the temptation to fornicate, but, in another, truer sense, the best motivation for marriage is to be a living revelation of the mystery of the love and submission between Christ and His Church.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:24-25

The mystery of marriage is revealed to be a “selflessness,” more than a last resort to avoid desperate sexual urges. After all, we are not talking about a dog in heat which has to rush and find the first thing that will copulate with him. We are talking about human beings – the image-bearers of Almighty God. A person in danger of succumbing to the temptation of fornication should not hurry to find the first person who will marry him or her, thinking that otherwise fornication will be inevitable. In I Corinthians 7 we are addressing a situation where marriage is already being contemplated for the right reasons.

But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

I Corinthians 7:36-37

The Apostle has in mind a prolonged engagement which causes temptation that can be remedied by having the wedding.

A Designer Marriage

October 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 12 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Ephesians 5:28

If men are supposed to love themselves, why the need for wives? Why not cut out the middle man? Because it is not good for men to be alone. It is not good in general for people to be alone, and it is not good specifically for the man.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

A “help meet” is what we would call a “helper who is a perfect fit” or “a helper who is perfectly suited.” If you are a wife, you were designed by God specifically to help your husband, and you are the perfect one for that job. Wives meet the emotional needs of their husbands. We were made in the image of God, and we do have emotions that survived the fall in the Garden of Eden.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:27-28

Marriage meets society’s need for structure and stability and the proper training of children.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

I Corinthians 7:1-3

Marriage also meets the physical needs of husbands and wives, but marriage especially meets the spiritual needs of husbands and wives. God designed wives to submit to husbands. He designed husbands to lead wives. He designed wives to give holy counsel and companionship to husbands. He designed husbands to sanctify wives with the Word of God. Just because one spouse is failing to fulfill these God-ordained responsibilities, the other spouse is not excused from fulfilling his or hers.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

Ephesians 5:29

The natural inclination of men apart from God is to nourish, to feed, our own flesh. What we are called to do, though, is to feed our wives spiritually and to feed the marriage relationship. We are also called to “cherish” it – to treat it well. As husbands, we must treat our wives and our marriages as valuable. We must protect our wives and protect the marriage. What a tragedy if I protect my marriage from everyone but me. Christ nourishes the Church in these same ways.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17

Now, if you are reading this and you are a wife, I am aware that your husband may not be doing any of these things. (Most aren’t!) But in a previous lesson we discussed the importance of creating in the home a climate where he could start doing these things. You must humbly express the need to be fed and cherished, and to be ministered to spiritually. Trust the Lord to miraculously change your husband’s heart and create in him a desire to do these kinds of things. Also, remember that, if you love Jesus, you must love those that Jesus loves. The best way to make sure that you are obeying Christ is to love your spouse. A marriage where one spouse is obedient, even if the other is not, still honors Christ.


Entries and comments feeds.