Study Sheet for I Corinthians 7:1-11 (click here for Study Notes)
Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
To the unmarried I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (NIV)
In this passage Paul is addressing an outgrowth of gnostic thought that despised the body and things of the body. He reminds the Corinthians that they live in an immoral place; pagan temples with their prostitutes were before them wherever they went in Corinth. Trying to discipline marriage out of their lives would set them up for the opposite extreme: falling for the visible temptation of the "sacred" prostitutes.
1. Did Paul really believe it was better to be single than married? (see Eph 5:22-23; Col 3:18-19; I Tim. 3:2, 12; 5:14)
Paul continues by specifically insisting that husbands and wives should fulfill their "marital duty" to each other. Furthermore, he says that in a marriage the spouses aren't autonomous; they "belong" to each other.
1. How can one person's body "belong" to another? (see Ex 21:10; I Pe 3:7; Eph 5:8; I Cor 6:19-20)
2. How can we be sure we won't be manipulated or "used" in a marriage if our bodies belong to our spouse?
3. What would be the indications that we were misusing our spouse? (see Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18; Titus 2:1-8, 11-15; I Pe 3:1-2; I John 4:7-8, 16-18)
Paul concedes that there's one situation in which spouses can "deprive each other" by "mutual consent for a time." That situation is devoting oneself to prayer.
1. What precedent is there for deprivation in special circumstances? (Ex 19:15; I Sam 21:4-5; Matt 6:16-18)
2. Jesus indicated that food deprivation (fasting) was associated with sorrow. How did he link "fasting" with images of marriage? (Mark 2:19-20)
3. Why would Paul place "depriv[ing] each other" for a time in the same category as fasting?
Besides saying that it is good for the "unmarried and the widowsto stay unmarried as I am," Paul also concedes that they may marry if they "cannot control themselves."
1. Why do you think Paul recommended celibacy to the Corinthians? (see v. 26; Mat 19: 11-12)
2. Why did Paul think marriage might obstruct God's work? (see v. 32-35)
3. Do you think Christ-followers today should be following this advice of Paul's?
Paul leaves no loophole for rationalizing divorce. The Jews had provisions for divorce, but they misused those provisions and victimized innocent women.
1. Why is Paul so unwavering in his command which, he emphasizes, is from the Lord? (see Deut. 24:1-4; Mal 2:13-14; Mt 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12; Lk 16:18)
2. Malachai 2:13-14 states that God had stopped accepting Israel's sacrifices because the Israelite men had broken faith with their wives. What does it mean to "break faith" with one's spouse?
In Genesis 2: 24 God declares that a man shall be united with his wife, "and they will become one flesh." Just before his death Jesus prayed for his believers in intimate terms, "I in them and you in me.I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:23, 26)
1. Why do you think marriage is the relationship that describes Jesus and us, his followers?
2. Does sex seems too sensual to represent Christ and the church?
3. What is the bride in Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9-27?
Faithfulness is not solely a concern of the married. Sexual or relational sin in a single person is unfaithfulness to Jesus, our Bridegroom. Our earthly spouses are not the only ones hurt if we break faith.
1. What intimate secrets do you need to confess and offer to the Lord Jesus in order to mend your relationship with your spouse and with Jesus?
2. What hurt have you experienced that still stands between you and true intimacy with a spouse or with Jesus?
3.Confess your hurts and sins of unfaithfulness to Jesus and ask him
to mend your marriage and/or your intimacy with him
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.