(Give each person in the class a postcard as they arrive. Ask each person to write on the card one piece of advice you would give a newly engaged couple about marriage! Collect them and read them or have individual members read what they wrote.)
Good marriages involve keeping God at the center, spending quality time together, effective communications and more. Cultural changes have weakened the institution of marriage, including changes that make it easy to obtain a divorce. Many couples marry, citing divorce as a backup plan if faced with problems in the marriage.
[Unfortunately, some preachers have misquoted research results done by George Barna. His research actually found that the divorce rate among professed believers to be not that much different from the non-churched. But the divorce rate for Christians who are involved in their church and attend 3 out of 4 Sundays is about half that of the non-churched. The top three reasons for divorce are money, sex and children—in that order.]
(The above information was provided by Bro. Curtis Owens.)
Relationship advice abounds, and it can be difficult to sort valid from invalid counsel. Today’s focal passage provides a scriptural basis for how believers can honor God by keeping their vows related to marriage and purity.
Paul wrote chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians in response to questions from the church at Corinth related to marriage after conversion and what place sexual intimacy had in marriage. This chapter is only a beginning point for the discussion on marriage, not a complete statement about marriage or its ethical implications. In other words, Paul gave a broad stroke of the brush on some marriage issues without a lot of detailed explanation.
The following is an overview of our verses today:
· Principles of sex in marriage
· A word to the unmarried
· Advice about married people
Marriage and Intimacy! Read 1 Cor. 7:1-7
1. Review these verses. What counsel did Paul give to husbands?
(Men should have one (implied) wife; fulfill the marital responsibility to his wife; husband does not have right over his own body; do not deprive his wife sexually unless it is a mutual agreement for a specified time and purpose)
2. What counsel did Paul give to wives? (Wife should have one (implied) husband; fulfill the marital responsibility of her husband; wife does not have right over her own body; do not deprive her husband sexually unless it is a mutual agreement for a specified time and purpose. Note: Illness and other medical reasons may also prevent sexual relations.)
Sexual relations in Corinth were strongly tied to pagan worship. Corinthian Christians had been impacted by their culture. Sexual immorality in Corinth was unchecked, and sexual temptations were everywhere. For this reason, the Corinthian believers had questions and Paul provided answers.
3. How does this teaching of duty and rights in marriage contrast with contemporary views about marital relationships?
4. What corrections need to be made for a healthy view of sex within marriage? (The world we live in has so perverted sex as to make it something dirty and vulgar rather than a beautiful union of man and wife, as God intended!)
5. What are some implications to be avoided? (The marriage relationship does not give them license to be controlling, vindictive, or abusive.)
God provided for the natural sexual urges of men and women through the institution of marriage—a God-ordained relationship.
6. How do Paul’s directives strengthen a marriage? (God designed marriage so that the sexual relationship between a man and woman would be the one thing that would not be shared with any other person.)
7. What should be some of the distinctives of the Christian view of sex?
Sexual relations within marriage are to be on mutually agreeable terms.
Marriage and Singleness! Read 1 Cor. 7:8-9
(Read these verses in several different translations.)
1. How did the different translations add clarity to the meaning here?
2. How would you summarize Paul’s counsel to the unmarried and widows?
3. How can singleness as an alternative to marriage be satisfying? (Paul considered himself to be a successful single person, and he wanted to help other single people to be successful and satisfied in their status.)
The Scripture is silent on whether Paul was married at one time and whether he was a widower at the time of this writing. Paul recognized singleness to be a “good” thing, meaning not everyone would fulfill the requirements of singleness. He also emphasized that marriage was God’s way of meeting the sexual needs of people who are single. God has not gifted anyone for sexual immorality!
4. “Believers are to be content regardless of marital status.” How does the statement summarize Paul’s point?
5. What is the relationship between what Paul was teaching and God’s expectation of His people living in a God-honoring way?
Marriage and Divorce! Read 1 Cor. 7:10-13
1. How does Paul address divorce in verses 10-11? (A wife or a husband is not to leave a marriage. But if they do, they are not to remarry.)
2. How does Paul address divorce in the situation where one is a believer and the other is not a believer? (If the unbeliever wants to stay then remain together. If the unbeliever chooses to leave then divorce them.)
3. Why should a believer stay married to an unbeliever? (See verse 16. That is exactly what happened with Sterling Eggleston! His wife was a Christian and continued to live a committed Christian life before him, including attending church week after week. He was finally marvelously saved!)
4. How does this passage help us understand how to relate to people who were friends prior to our accepting Christ?
Paul’s directives to remain married affirm God’s design for all marriages. Not to divorce applied to all married couples to whom Paul was writing, even believers who had unbelieving spouses. Leaving a spouse because that person is an unbeliever is not a valid reason to divorce. God mandate is for couples to remain married!
Summarize and Challenge!
1. Paul responded to specific questions about marriage for a specific group of people during a specific time, but how do Paul’s answers translate to today’s marriages? (If you are married, you have the responsibility to care for your spouse and to fulfill all his or her needs and desires. We should view being single and being married as gifts from God. To avoid frustration with one’s natural desire for sex, one should pursue marriage.)
2. Regardless of your marital status, what are you doing to make sure your sexual expression honors God and His design for creation?
3. How can you help others understand God’s expectations?
Our view of marriage and divorce should be the same as God’s view: marriage should be embraced as a permanent relationship between a man and a woman. Consider, too, that Christians who are divorced and remarried are not disqualified from receiving the mercy and grace of God. Determine to encourage others no matter what their marital status is!