2. Christian Marriage
The start of 1 Corinthians 7 addresses an issue of people forming marriage relationships. It's given as an answer to an unspecified question,
1 Corinthians 7:1: Now concerning the things about which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2. But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3. Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. WEB
It was a question about relationships, and given the context in the chapter, it's based largely around sexual relationships. Hence the first summary response is that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. This section of the chapter is couched somewhat in euphemisms, but the underlying meaning is still clear.
It lays out four life alternatives, of which two are acceptable, and in keeping with Gods principles, and two are contrary to them.
- Single, and acting as truly single
- Married, and acting as a married couple
- Married, but without marriage relations
- Single, but acting as married
The first, that of being a genuinely single person, is put up as being the best aim in life for an unmarried person. This is emphasised again a little later in the chapter,
1 Corinthians 7:8: But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. 9. But if they don't have self-control, let them marry. For it's better to marry than to burn. WEB
He's clear that being single is the best course of action, but also that many people would not have the strength to maintain that life. Instead human weaknesses would lead them into not being able to follow it as an option in life. For these people, Paul states that marriage offers the solution. It's a relationship designed and sactioned by God that would fulfil the human needs.
Corrupting God's Packages
While the first two options are ranked in preference, the other two aren't ranked, but rather both are just considered wrong in the eyes of God. They each involving mixing parts from the two quite separate packages of lifestyle that God offers.
One is for people to be not married, but yet still take on the sexual relations that are part of marriage. The various media shows that this has been an increasingly common thing to do among mainstream society. The world at large says that this is fine, and a good thing to do, but God says that it's wrong, and going down that path damages our relationship with God.
The other case that's explicitly mentioned is that of a married couple not genuinely acting as a married couple, by choosing not to have the physical relationship that is part of that package.
1 Corinthians 7:3: Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife doesn't have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn't have authority over his own body, but the wife. 5. Don't deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn't tempt you because of your lack of self-control. WEB
Relationships and God
The overall point is that our personal relationships do matter with God, and its not something that we can rationalise about and make our own standards. There are two distinct ways we can live:
- As a single person who is “one flesh” before God.
- As a man an a woman who have come together to become “one flesh” before God.
If we adjust our lives to fit into exactly one of those categories, then we make one step forward in the challenge to secure the “pearl of great price” that is a place in the kingdom of God. If we don't, then it is holding on to those old possessions.