"GROUP MARRIAGE COUNSELING" Part 4
1. Please turn to First Corinthians chapter 7. When you've found that chapter in God's Word please look up. Before we read from the Bible there are some things I need to mention to you.
2. Almost every message which I preach is designed to support a central theme, a proposition, if you will. What is a proposition? It's really a sermon in a sentence.
3. I usually develop the introduction to my sermon in an effort to bring you from where you are when you arrive in the auditorium all the way to my proposition. Then I move into the body of my sermon, which supports, illustrates, or proves my proposition, using the text that I am preaching on. Then, in the concluding remarks of my message, I try to apply the proposition to your daily life.
4. I've told you all this because I'm not going to do it that way this evening. What I will do this evening is state my proposition, illustrate it with some modern day examples that you will agree with, and then take you to the Word of God, where you will see the same thing taught, but applied to a subject that each one of us is rather sensitive about.
5. My proposition is this: There are decisions which can more wisely be made when one is ignorant of certain things than when one is either informed or experienced about those same things.
6. Example #1. Take two people. Sit them both down and teach them, explain to them, show statistical evidence to them, show consequences to them, of eating candy and junk food. Next, ask each of the two people to decide whether they will eat the junk food and candy that is sold at the store around the corner. I submit to you that the person who has never tasted junk food or candy is far more likely to make the wise decision not to than the person who knows what junk food and candy tastes like.
7. Example #2. Take two people. Sit them both down and teach them, explain to them, show statistical evidence to them, show consequences to them, of taking drugs and drinking booze. Next, ask each of the two people to decide whether they will take the drugs or the booze that is sold around the corner in front of the store or in the store. I submit to you that the person who has never consumed alcohol or taken illegal drugs is far more likely to make the wise decision not to than the person who knows how liquor and drugs can make you feel from past experience.
8. Example #3. Take two people. Sit them both down and teach them, explain to them, show statistical evidence to them, show consequences to them, of looking at pornographic material. Next, ask each of the two people to decide whether they will purchase and then look at the pornographic pictures that are sold in the store around the corner. I submit to you that the person who has never looked at dirty pictures is far more likely to make the wise decision not to than the person who knows what such pictures look like.
9. Do you see the principle illustrated? There are certain kinds of knowledge and experiences which do not help you make wise decisions. Instead, these kinds and types of knowledge and experiences actually hinder wise decision making. So, my proposition can be easily proved.
10. Now, allow me to alter my proposition just a little bit. There are certain decisions regarding God's will and serving God which virgins are more likely to correctly make than are those who are not virgins.
11. You see, being a virgin, in a sense, is being ignorant, is being inexperienced. A virgin is someone who is ignorant, so far as first hand knowledge and experience is concerned, of the intimate details of sexual behavior.
12. I submit to you, in light of God's Word, that there are certain decisions that people must make in life which are less likely to be correctly made if the person who must make the decision is sexually experienced. To say it another way, certain kinds of ignorance better prepares you to make certain kinds of decisions than does certain kinds of knowledge.
13. This is not to say that being a virgin is spiritually superior in God's grand scheme of things. But there are four issues raised by Paul, to virgins, that a sexually inexperienced person would have a greater chance of addressing objectively than would a person who has had sexual intercourse.
14. This we see in our text for this evening, which is First Corinthians 7.25-35. Let's stand as we read it together. "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. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 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. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 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. 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."
1A. FIRST, THE ISSUE OF CONCERN (7.25)
"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."
Speaking of things never addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ in any of His teachings, Paul now turns his remarks to those in the Corinthian Church who have never been sexually active. It is this group of people who are desirably ignorant in the way I have talked about. They do not have either the knowledge or the experiences that might cloud their judgment when making decisions related to this issue of concern.
1B. Notice, In This Verse, That The Guarantee Is Freedom
1C. What we have here is apostolic advice.
2C. We know, from Second Timothy 3.16 and from Second Peter 1.21, that what Paul has written here is inspired. But he says in this very verse that what he writes is not a command.
3C. What we have, then, is freedom. Freedom to decide and to either suffer the consequences or enjoy the blessings that result from our individual decisions.
2B. Next, Notice That The Goal Is Faithfulness
1C. Paul tells his readers that he had obtained mercy from the Lord to be faithful, which according to First Corinthians 4.2, is required of every servant of God.
2C. So, you can rest assured that the advice that you receive from a person who is faithful will be extremely helpful in achieving your personal goal of being faithful in your service to Christ.
3C. Isn't this a summary of Biblical Christianity . . . the liberty, by God's mercy and grace, to be faithful?
4C. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it, how a person could enslave himself to sexual sin and still maintain that he is free to achieve his goal of faithfully serving God? Especially when his goal appears to be to faithfully satisfy his sexual appetite, instead.
5C. I submit to you that in regard to this issue of concern, which is to faithfully serve the true and the living God, the virgin is more likely to make the right decisions and to take the right steps than the person who has committed sexual sins or who is sexually experienced, having been but not any longer married.
2A. SECOND, THE ISSUE OF CONTENTMENT (7.26-28)
"I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 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."
These three verses are summed up in Paul's thoughts of Philippians 4.11: "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
1B. As To Circumstances
Remember that Paul's reference to the present distress has to do with impending persecution to the Christians he is writing to. And that although the specific things he says apply to Christians who are about to be persecuted, so that they might take steps of anticipation to insure their faithfulness to Christ, the principles that lie back of Paul's specific statements apply to each and every one of us, persecution or not.
2B. As To Status
Are you married or are you single? Your status is significant, and here's how you can see its significance. Notice, in verse 27, two words. There is the word "bound" and there is the word "loosed." From these two words I know that although I am a happily married man, there is a freedom of action and a freedom of choice that I no longer have, now that I am married. And the same is true of everyone who is married. Marital status, then, is extremely important.
3B. As To Sin
Though you deprive yourself of some freedom of action when you marry, do you commit sin by getting married? No you do not. Assuming you can take care of your responsibilities as a husband or as a wife when you marry, getting married is not at all wrong. There should never be any confusion about that at all.
4B. As To Service
Paul just wants us to know that his advice is aimed at making life easier for all concerned. Though it will be tougher married than single, so far as being faithful to Christ during times of persecution, you can do whatever you want to do. All Paul wants to do is give advice that might spare folks some heartache. Not that you will always be a better Christian as a virgin, but you'll have a better chance of being a better Christian. The individual choice, however, is yours.
3A. NEXT, THERE IS THE ISSUE OF CONSIDERATION
What things must you consider when contemplating marriage and service to God?
1B. You'd Better Consider This Thing Called Diligence (7.29)
"But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none."
1C. Remember that, for the Corinthians, persecution was just around the corner. The situation might even have been developing rapidly.
2C. So, as things deteriorated Paul wanted his readers in Corinth to make sure that they diligently served Christ.
3C. With time running out before the freedom to serve God without opposition would be just a nice memory, Paul wanted both married men and single men to serve God the same way.
4C. Friends, think about this. Who would be more likely to respond to Paul's call for diligence, one who had a wife to get home to or one who was single? Obviously, the single man.
2B. Next, Consider This Matter Of Distractions
1C. In verses 30-33 Paul deals with distractions from the male perspective.
"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. 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."
1D. Christian man, consider this when you are weighing your options. Ponder this when you contemplate the meeting of your sexual needs and desires versus your greater spiritual need of being faithful to the Christ Who died on Calvary's cross for you.
2D. Do you really know that you cannot live without your sexual needs being met, or do you just imagine that it would seem nice to have sex from time to time with some woman who you are married to?
3D. I ask this question because, if the single and celibate life really is an option for you, and you don't have to get married to avoid the likelihood of fornication, then you risk being distracted from really serving God the way you can and should by getting married.
4D. On the other hand, if you have not been gifted for single life and you do need to marry, single life would tempt you unnecessarily and risk your ministry to Christ.
5D. Now, let me ask you: Who can more objectively arrive at the right answer for his life . . . the single virgin or the single man who has committed fornication and who knows how nice sex is? A single virgin or a fellow who used to be married and has come to miss the intimacy of marriage?
6D. I submit to you that the virgin is in a position to render a decision that is more likely to be correct than the person who has engaged in sexual activity in the past.
2C. In verse 34 Paul deals with the same consideration from a woman's perspective.
"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.."
1D. Do you see that verse? Do you see what Paul is saying?
2D. The virgin's focus is much more concentrated than a married woman's. The married woman will always have her husband to submit to, the affairs of the home to tend to, her children to nurse and care for.
3D. How much more likely is the married woman to become distracted than the virgin is?
4D. But I ask you, if the woman considering these things has never had sexual intercourse, is she not more likely to both know and to want to know God's will for her life?
5D. Never having her sexual appetite whetted, is she not far more likely to really know whether marriage and the sexual activity of marriage is a want or whether it is a genuine God-given need? I think so.
3C. With both the man and woman, then, it is the virgin who is more likely to objectively evaluate and with wisdom contemplate and know God's will.
4C. Being sexually inexperienced and not having sinfully acquired knowledge God does not yet want a person to have, it is the virgin who will really know when he or she is married that it was God's will. He or she will never have to wonder, when the marriage is on the rocks, whether he or she might have been wrong in marrying in the first place.
4A. FINALLY, THERE IS THE ISSUE OF CONCEPT (7.35)
"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."
What is the concept that lies back of everything Paul has said thus far? We answer that question by observing two things here.
1B. First, The Gain
1C. Paul assures his readers that he has their best interests at heart. He seeks their profit and would not cast a snare on them.
2C. See the word "snare?" It refers to a lasso, that will slip over the neck of an animal and then quickly cinch up and hold captive.
3C. Paul assures his readers that this is not what he wants to happen to them. And I wonder if, in the mind of Paul, this is exactly what does happen when someone, influenced by the memory of past sins, makes a decision to get married that's a wrong decision.
4C. You see, once you get into a marriage you should not have gotten into there is no way out without committing sin. I'd call that a snare. Paul just wanted to protect folks by giving them good advice to heed and follow when making one of life's major decisions.
2B. The Goal In All Of This?
". . . that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction."
1C. You see, most Christians have been given a sexual appetite that really must be met to avoid fornication. Those of us who are in this situation have actually been given a gift to deal with distractions and continue serving Christ as we ought to.
2C. But there are some Christians who are gifted differently. For them marriage will be a distraction of such major proportions that they will probably never again effectively serve the Lord once they are bound in marriage.
3C. So, which will it be that distracts you? An unmet sexual need that requires you to marry and serve God with a spouse so you won't be distracted by temptations, or should you stay single so you won't be distracted by the cares and concerns of married life?
4C. Your goal in seeking the answer ought to be the answer that best enables you to serve God without undue distraction, be it the distraction of an unmet sexual appetite or the distraction of a marriage you don't really need.
1. Did God make you to be a single Christian or one of the marrying kind?
2. Such factors as what your friends are doing, or whether you really like children, or whether you want
the companionship of a spouse during your life, are factors that are really irrelevant in finding the best answer for you.
3. When determining whether or not God has equipped you to serve Him single or married there ought to be only two considerations:
#1, can you survive as a single Christian serving God without having your sexual needs met by a spouse on a regular basis?
#2, will you be able to overcome the obvious distractions that married people must contend with and still serve God effectively and faithfully?
4. If the answer to the first question is "No" then marriage is in your future. But if the answer to the first question is "No" and the answer to the second question is also "No," then marriage is not in your immediate future. You will need to spiritually mature a bit so that you can manage the problems that marriage brings into a Christian's life.
5. Some of you, however, are able to answer question #1 with a "Yes." You can survive without regular sexual activity. For you, based on what Paul has told us, marriage should not be in your plans for the future, at least as far as you know for now.
6. To you I would say, "Don't go looking for a mate, and certainly don't commit sin and make it that much harder for you to have good spiritual discernment in this matter."
7. If you are a virgin, remain a virgin until you have to get married to keep from sinning. Taking that approach will ensure that if you get married it will more likely be because it's God's will for you to marry, not the result of you possessing knowledge that won't help you in making this decision.
8. And why are these considerations so important? Because, though Christianity isn't better for the virgin, it can be easier for the virgin. So why make things harder than they need to be?
9. For those of you who have stayed with me throughout our studies of First Corinthians chapter 7, the eleven verses we have just studied are seen as yet another proof that God does have a plan to meet your physical needs.
10. This passage can be of tremendous help to a virgin who is asking God if he or she really has a legitimate need that can only be met in marriage, or not.
11. But this text is also an example of the fact that whatever your need is, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, there is a God Who cares. There is a God Who loves you enough to both be concerned about your need and to do something about your need.