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man reading the Bible November 27 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 1Corinthians 7:1- 11:1

Marriage, Divorce, Singleness, Christian Liberty and Responsibility

Should a person get married or stay single –which is better? Is it okay to get divorced and re-married? How free am I to express my Christian liberty? What does the Bible say? In this section of Scripture there are some guiding principles for these issues.

When interpreting the Bible, we must remember that all Scripture occurs within a context and has some purpose for which it was written. Many have taken these texts out of their contexts and used them to their own advantage. That is wrong and will lead to deceitful conclusions. What is the context of 1Corinthians?

Corinth was a city close to Athens, Greece. It had a bad reputation for idolatry and immorality. All the believers in the Middle East, including Corinth, were under persecution for their Christian faith. They were under constant threat of being killed or at least imprisoned. How should Christians react when they know they may suffer at any time? Should life go on as normal? Should they marry or stay single? Which is better? Who should marry and who should not? The Corinthians wrote a letter to the Apostle Paul asking him about these things.

Given the dire situation in Corinth, the Apostle Paul said it would be better if they did not marry so that they might give their full attention to the Lord. Paul wanted them to live lives free from concern. Paul knew if any of them should be killed, it would be tragic for his remaining spouse and family (soldiers in military conflicts at any time in history can identify with Paul’s sentiments).

Marriage ties also bring additional responsibilities. Marriage would require divided attention between family and service for God at a time when life was perceived as short. However, because of the immorality of the culture, Paul said if there was a desire to marry, then they should marry instead of being consumed with lust. Even though Paul said it was better not to marry, given the unfavorable circumstances, he also said there was no sin in marrying. But, if a person did not feel constrained to be married, he would do better to stay single because his life and attention could be given totally to God.

In their current circumstances of persecution, Paul’s overall advice to the Corinthians was to stay within the situation God had called them to, whether married or single, and to live lives of peace. Divorce and remarriage do not cause peace like we might think. For more Bible reading on this, read Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:3-9, Mark 10:2-12, and Luke 16:18. We must follow paths that lead to peace. Biblical marriage counseling can help us identify the root causes and solutions for most marriage problems, and extended premarital counseling is a very good practice for an engaged couple. Almost all married couples want happiness and peace, but ultimate peace is not found in a human relationship; it is found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ (more...). Christians need to follow God's Word in relation to their spouse so that they might glorify him with a good marriage. The counsel from God’s Word teaches us to keep our commitments and to live in love and consideration of one another.

Christians must also live in consideration of one another as they express their Christian liberties. Jesus Christ gives us liberty from legalistic religious practices and traditions. He gives us liberty to serve him (see our Galatians study). Those who are more mature in the Christian faith know that many practices are not evil in and of themselves. They know that going to movie theatres, playing cards, dancing, drinking in moderation, and other forms of entertainment are not sinful, and without any misgivings about it many Christians do these things. As Christians, however, we must have some regard for those who are troubled by these practices. Perhaps a recent convert had previously attended X-rated movies at a theatre and this led to pornography. He may feel uncomfortable going with you into any movie theatre. Perhaps someone else got saved who was previously a gambler and lost his family because of it. He may not want anything to do with playing cards or casinos. Perhaps someone led an immoral lifestyle and this began with sensuous dancing. She may not want anything to do with it. Perhaps someone else gave up a life of drunkenness when he got saved or he came from an abusive home, so he is uncomfortable with being around any kind of alcoholic beverage. We must live in consideration of one another. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1, NIV). “Be careful … that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak,” (1Corinthians 8:9, NIV). Out of consideration for others, refrain from practicing your liberties when they are present. Choose an unquestionably wholesome activity in which you may include them. In Christian love, include them whenever possible; do not exclude them.

The Apostle Paul used himself as an example. As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ he could have insisted on certain rights and privileges but did not. He said,

If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible,” (1Corinthians 9:17-19, NIV).

Paul also used a negative example from the Israelite wanderings in the desert for forty years to emphasize responsibility in Christian liberty. Israel was God’s chosen people, and God delivered them from Egyptian bondage. They were not, however, thankful, and they took their liberties for granted. They engaged in immoral behavior and idolatry. The lesson we are to learn from them is to not take our liberty for granted and so live a life of compromise and loose living. God will discipline us for that. Paul says in 1Corinthians 10:22 “Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (NIV). God is jealous of anything that becomes an idol for us and leads to evil behavior. In fact, he is jealous of anything that becomes more important than our relationship with him.

Paul’s conclusion about Christian liberty is found in 1Corinthian 10:23-24, and 10:31 –11:1

“Everything is permissible”-- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-- but not everything is constructive.

Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others…. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks [non-Jews] or the church of God--even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (NIV)

Lessons to live by:

  • Most of us want happiness and peace, but ultimate peace is not found in a human relationship; it is found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ (more...).
  • Live in consideration of others. Do not insist on exercising your “rights.” Do what is beneficial for them.
  • The single life has the benefit of a totally committed life for God and is best in some situations. Marriage is not wrong, but time and attention must properly be divided between God and family. Be careful in your decision to marry or not to marry.
  • Live in peace.
  • Do not take your Christian liberty for granted. Live in holiness, and live responsibly in a way that will please the Lord who liberated you.

Today’s Bible memory verses: 1Corinthians 10:23-24

“Everything is permissible”-- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-- but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (NIV)

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