|Lesson 6||February 1- 7|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Cor. 7; Eph. 5:21-33.
Memory Text: "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" (1 Corinthians 7:7).
Key Thought: How should Christians make decisions about marriage, remaining single, or coping with conditions thrust upon them? How can Christian values and principles inform these eternally significant choices? Important decisions such as those regarding our marital status require an openness to God and His Word to enlighten and empower us to do His will.
|Sabbath Afternoon||January 31|
IN OUR WORLD SEX IS OFTEN USED TO SELL A PRODUCT.. Christians are in need of straightforward words on the topic of human sexuality. We need the Holy Spirit to bring the power of God's Word to bear upon our lives, to enable us to choose purity, and to help us make choices based on the high calling of God's Word, not on the low sexual standards of the world.
In our study of 1 Corinthians 7, we shall sometimes wish for a more specific understanding of the circumstances Paul addresses. There is much to learn, though, as we watch Paul weigh the consequences of certain decisions and as we hear him share principles of Christian freedom and sexuality with the believers in Corinth.
SEX IN MARRIAGE (1 Cor. 7:1-7).
Paul now answer questions the Corinthians have. What is the first issue he addresses? 1 Cor. 7:1- 7.
Again deciding which words are Paul's and which we should attribute to the Corinthians is significant. Does it make a difference whether the passage reads "now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "it is well for a man not to touch a woman,'" (1 Cor. 7:14, NRSV) or "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (NKJV)?
The clause "It is well for a man not to touch a woman," should be regarded as a Corinthian slogan to which Paul responds. The Corinthians have submitted for Paul's approval a view of marriage that involved abstinence. This is important to understand, for Paul's views of Christian marriage do not match those of his questioners.
True religion was never meant to be uses as a convenient weapon for sexual denial. Paul calls for moral and sexual purity, not prudery. Sex is a God-given blessing if used as He intended and directed.
How does the sexual experience in marriage relate to one's spirituality? 1 Cor. 7:2-7.
For Paul, the usual pattern for Christians would be to marry. He is realistic about human sex drives and worries that extended abstinence in marriage, when if motivated by spirituality, might lead to temptation. While he wishes all were single like himself, he acknowledges that God has arranged things differently (verse 7).
In response to the Corinthian slogan "It is well for a man not to touch a woman" (verse 1, NRSV), Paul discusses only sex in marriage. His reason for this is clear -- marriage is the only legitimate context for sexual activity. And, if verses 36-38 address the case of the betrothed couple, Paul assumes that the pair do not engage in sexual activity until after marriage.
"If you will only watch, continually watch unto prayer, if you will do everything as if you were in the immediate presence of God, you would be saved from yielding to temptation and may hope to be kept pure, spotless, and undefiled till the last." --The Adventist Home, p. 338.
What great advantages are evident today that support the view that marriage is still the only legitimate context for sexual activity?
TO BE SINGLE IS GOOD (1 Cor. 7:8, 9, 25-40).
What counsel does Paul provide to those in Corinth who are pondering the question "Should I marry?" 1 Cor. 7:8,9,25-40. Do you agree with his counsel? Why or why not?
Paul addresses his counsel to "the unmarried and the widows" (verses 8,9, 39, 40); and to "virgins" (verses 25-38; the term may include people of both sexes; compare Rev. 14:4).
A third situation is less clear as Paul's language discusses a man and his "virgin" (1 Cor. 7:36-38). Most modern translations understand this to mean a man and his fiancee, though it is possible Paul is discussing the case of a father and his betrothed daughter.
In each situation, Paul's counsel is consistent. He believes it is better to remain single. This does not mean "better" in a moral sense. Both singleness and marriage are good and within God's desires for humankind (verses 26, 38). But "in view of the impending crises" (verse 26, NRSV). And the need for full dedication to "the affairs of the Lord" (verse 34), Paul believes singleness is the more appropriate choice if other factors allow it. On the other hand, "Even when all the problems associated with married life during a period of persecution and distress are taken into account (see verse 26), it is better to marry than to be inwardly consumed with the mentally, emotionally, and physically disturbing condition of unsatisfied desire." -- SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p 708.
What is Paul's evaluation of singleness? 1 Cor. 7:8, 25, 26, 32-35, 38, 40.
First Corinthians 7 makes an important contribution to our church: To be single is good. Singleness is both desirable and in harmony with God's will. It is not a second-rate status. To be single is a viable choice for Christians. In fact, Paul describes it as a gift from God (1 Cor. 7:7; compare verse 37). And like his Lord before him, he himself is single and lays bold claim to the gift. While Paul ii writing primarily to those who are deciding whether they should marry, his positive evaluation of single life speaks to all singles today, regardless of whether they have chosen such a lifestyle.
How can the church be more inclusive of its adult members who are not married? What can you do personally to make them enjoy a sense of belonging in the body of Christ?
SHOULD I REMAIN MARRIED ( 1 COR. 7:10-16, 39, 40).
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul deals with situations where "separation" seems to be a desirable choice to at least one partner in a marriage. Summarize Paul's counsel regarding these situations.
Situation 1--Husbands and wives (verses 10,11)
Situation 2--Believer married to unbeliever (verses 12-16)
Notice that Paul bases his belief in the permanence of marriage on a command from "the Lord." (See Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-12).
Some may have felt that their conversion somehow invalidated their marriage. But Paul argues that the "one body" principle holds and that the believing partner is not damaged by the union. As an unlawful union desecrates (1 Cor. 6:16), a lawful one consecrates. He points to the case of the unbaptized children of believing parents as an illustration of his point. Just as unbaptized children are "holy" so the unbelieving partner is drawn into the sphere of holiness.
In his book Caring and Commitment, Lewis Smedes tells of "Ralph," who, following his divorce, was struck with remorse. He went to a therapist who soothed his regret with the thought that marriage is for one's own growth, and that when one has not experienced growth for some time, it is time to leave. Smedes counters, "We do not give ourself a good chance for growing personally if we keep hankering after our fantasy of the ideal woman. Or man. We grow when we keep renewing our commitment to the only spouse we've got. We grow when we stop dreaming of a perfect marriage, and adjust caringly to the one we have. Our best growth comes when we forget about our own growth, and focus on caring instead.
"Here's a nice twist: instead of giving us a good reason for giving up a lifetime commitment, our need to grow is a prime reason for keeping it." --New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1992, p.95.
What are some of the trivial reasons offered for granting legal separation in marriage? Compare with Matthew 5:31,32.
Unfortunately, some couples enter into marriage on a trial basis depending on how things work out. How can this tentative attitude be the undoing of such unions?
How is the "Unbelieving husband sanctified by the wife"? (7:14).
REMAIN AS YOU ARE (1 COR. 7:17-31).
Why do you think Paul is so persistent in his counsel that converts should remain as they are? How would you apply his words today? 1 Cor. 7:17-24.
Paul invites the Corinthians to examine their priorities carefully. The priority of the Christian is to obey God's will: "Obeying the commandments of God is everything" (7:19, NRSV).
What does Paul mean when he asks for "those who have wives" to "be as though they had none"? 1 Cor. 7:29-31; (compare Heb. 11:13-16).
"... There are many who are losing their souls in this age of the world by becoming absorbed in the thoughts of marriage and in the marriage relation itself....
"God has placed men in the world, and it is their privilege to eat, to drink, to trade, to marry, and to be given in marriage; but is is safe to do these things only in the fear of God. We should live in the world with reference to the eternal world." -Mind, Character and Personality,vol. 1, p.221; see Matt. 24:38.
First Corinthians 7 helps to develop two sets of thought questions. The first is for those who are single and contemplating the possibility of marriage:
Thought questions for those who are married include:
In view of 1 Corinthians 7, what questions would you add?
SCRIPTURAL VIEWS OF MARRIAGE AND SEXUALITY (Gen. 1:27; Prov. 2:1,2, 16-19; 5:15-23; 6:20-35; Eph. 5:21-33).
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul responds to more of the Corinthians' questions. His answers are helpful in formulating an understanding of christian sexuality. But we should also allow other scriptural passages to shape that understanding.
What views of marriage does Paul provide in Ephesians 5:21-33? How do they compare with those he expressed in 1 Corinthians7?
What do the following verses teach in opposition to the following four lies people today often believe about marriage and sexuality?
Lie 1 -- marriage is boring (Prov. 5:15-23).
Lie 2 -- adultery shows you are clever and attractive (Prov. 6:20-35).
Lie 3 -- adultery adds excitement to your life (Prov. 2:1,2, 16-19).
Lie 4 -- Divorce is not as bad as people make it to be (Mal. 2:16).
Commenting on Genesis 1:27, Richard foster writes: "our maleness and femaleness, is not just an accidental arrangement of the human species, not just a convenient way to keep the human race going. No, it is at the center of out true humanity. We exist as male and female in relationship. Our sexualness, our capacity to love and be loved, is intimately related to our creation in the image of God. What a high view of human sexuality?...
"How much richer and fuller is the biblical perspective! ... To discuss a great book, to view a sunset together -- this is sexuality at it best, for male and female are in intimate relationship. To be sure, genital sex is a part of the total picture, but human sexuality is a far lager reality than merely coitus." -- The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money. Sex and Power (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), p.92.
Further Study: Read Isaiah 62:5 and Revelation 19:7-9. After studying this week's lesson, why do you think God used the marriage relationship to symbolize His relationship with the church?
Prayerfully consider one of the following segments: "From the Marriage Alter," The Adventist Home, pp. 97-128; "The Builders of the Home," The Ministry of Healing, pp. 356-362; "Love and Sexuality in the Human Experience, " Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, pp. 218-239.
"In your life union your affections are to be tributary to each other's happiness. Each is to minister to the happiness of the other. This is the will of God concerning you. But while you are to blend as one, neither of you is to lose his or her individuality in the other. God is the owner of you individuality. Of Him you are to ask: What is right? What is wrong? How may I best fulfill the purpose of my creation?" -- The Adventist Home, p. 103.
|1. Paul seems careful to qualify his counsel
as though he's afraid some might make too much of it or misunderstand his
tone as one of command instead of advice
Cor. 7:6, 10, 12, 25, 35, 40). How seriously should we take Paul's counsel
on Christian sexuality?
2. Paul does not address many situations that are common today. He does not discuss the situation of a single person who senses she or he does not have the gift of singleness but for whom there is no obvious choice of a spouse. What words of counsel do you think Paul would have for this person or others in different settings?
3. React to the following quotation: "Marriage is often presented as having a sacramental quality, this is, an element of grace witnessing to the presence of God in our lives. If marriage is a sacrament testifying to the union of God with us and a metaphor of God's relationship with the church, singleness, too, is a sacrament. It testifies to the power and completeness of God's love." --Beverly Beem, "The Sacrament of Singleness," Signs of the Times, October 1990, p. 27.
Summary: We are to make crucial decisions with regard to marriage or singleness in answer to God's call, in the power of the gifts He provides, and in view of Christ's return.
The Faithful Chief
J. H. Zachary
As I stepped into the jungle clearing in the Philippines, I entered a primitive village called Dampaan. The entire village soon appeared to see the foreigner from America. The village chief, Tibulawan, welcomed me. During the visit, the chief made an appeal, "Please send us a teacher."
Several weeks later, two student missionaries from Mountain View College in the Philippines arrived in Dampaan and started a school. The first-grade students ranged in age from 6 to 20, all learning to read and write together. In the evenings, the villagers gathered to listen to the student missionaries lead in Bible studies.
Before that year was over Chief Tibulawan and 26 of his people were ready for baptism. Eventually the entire village followed their chief's example and were baptized as Seventh-day Adventists.
The message of Christ's soon coming spread to other villages in the area. Then funds ran out, and the student evangelists no longer came to teach in Dampaan. Fifteen years passed . Then recently missionaries from Mountain View College visited Dampaan one Sabbath morning. No one knew they were coming. As they neared the village, they heard singing. To their joy they found the villagers worshiping God. Chief Tibulawan preached. Unable to read, he quoted Bible texts that he had memorized. Brother Tibulawan and his people had remained faithful during the long 15 years they were without outside spiritual leadership. Mountain View College has again sent student missionaries to reopen the school in Dampaan, and 100 students now study in grades one through three.
During recent evangelistic meetings held throughout the Philippines, Brother Tibulawan brought more than 20 of his people down from the mountains to be baptized. After the service, Chief Tibulawan made this appeal. "More than 10 villages in the mountains still are waiting for a teacher to come and tell them about Jesus. Please help us."
|How will we answer his plea?
Chief Tibulawan (left) kept his people faithful to God during 15 years without church leadership. J. H. Zachary is director of Evangelism for The Quiet Hour.
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