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To Marry or Not to Marry

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
February 7, 2023 3:00 am

To Marry or Not to Marry

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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February 7, 2023 3:00 am

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It is good for a man not to be married. It is good. Now you say, whoa, John, how can you say, that's what it says in the Bible.

Now notice something, folks, before you all panic. He does not say it is the only good. It is also good to be married. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Read through the Bible and you'll find plenty of good reasons to get married, but you'll also find valid reasons to stay single. How do you know which option is right for you?

Can you know that for sure? To marry or not to marry. That's John MacArthur's focus today as he continues a study from 1st Corinthians titled Guidelines for Singleness and Marriage.

First though, John, before you look at what the Bible says about marriage, how about telling our listeners a little bit about your own path to matrimony? How did you and Patricia wind up married? I think it's an above average story. Oh, she's an above average lady.

Indeed. She was a friend of my sister. My younger sister, Jeanette, and Patricia were good friends. Patricia was engaged to a guy in our church, came from a wonderful family. Her mom and dad, just wonderful, precious, godly people, and her siblings all loved the Lord. So it was a great family, and I knew the family. But Patricia was always around the house because she was my sister's friend. And I think one day I said to her, you know, if you got rid of that boyfriend of yours, I'd be glad to take you for a ride in my Volkswagen, or something like that.

I had a Volkswagen Beetle in those days. And as the Lord would have it, in his providence, she was going to marry this guy. I mean, seriously going to marry, because the wedding invitations were already printed and in her car.

Wow. And she was supposed to take them to the post office to send them out because the wedding was imminent. And for some reason, she couldn't do it. So she's driving around with the wedding invitations in the car, and she can't bring herself to mail them, of all things. And her parents are saying, what are you doing?

And his parents are saying, what are you doing? She couldn't do it. And I'd like to think it was because she met me, but she would deny that.

But I think in her difficulty to make that decision, she did something that the Lord was directing all along. She broke up with the guy. And that was that. And I think that's what she did.

And that was that. And because she was always just the perfect kind of girl for me, I stepped in as rapidly as I could with as little sensitivity as possible, I think, and started spending time with her. And it wasn't long before the Lord knit our hearts together. And we knew why he had stopped her that close to the altar and kept her for me. And of course, now her partnership has just shaped my life and Grace Church and our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and everybody who knows us.

So yeah, she was close to going the wrong direction, but I think this was such an issue with the Lord himself that he stopped her without her really understanding why she couldn't do that. And we've never looked back, and I thank the Lord for that every day. Amen. Thank you, John.

That's a really good story. And now, friend, let's dig into the Bible's guidelines for singleness and marriage. John is going to help you see exactly what God expects of you, whether your marriage is strong or you're still looking for a spouse, or if you have dealt with divorce.

With today's lesson, here is John MacArthur. The Bible has a lot to say about marriage. There is much in the New Testament about marriage. Our Lord Jesus taught much about marriage. He referred to marriage many times in the gospel records. He stated in Matthew 19 that man and woman were made for each other.

God made them for each other. He states that they should join themselves together and become one flesh and that this was marriage and this was actually a joining together by God Himself. Jesus also emphasized that marriage was to be monogamous, that it was to be two becoming one flesh, something that was first stated by God in Genesis chapter 2. Jesus also taught in Matthew 19 that marriage was to be unbroken.

God hadn't changed His attitude at all about divorce. Jesus also taught not only that it was designed by God to be monogamous, to be unbroken, but that it was only for this life. Matthew 22, 30, Mark 12, 25, Luke 20, 35, all of those indicate that marriage is only for this earth, not for heaven. The Lord had a lot to say about marriage, but all that He said was pretty much theology, pretty much the basic identification of marriage.

And He didn't really get into the practical application of that. That He left for His later word through His apostles so that when we read the epistles, we find much more information about marriage, particularly, of course, the Apostle Paul who has much to say about the subject of marriage and says it repeatedly throughout his epistles from various and sundry angles. Now one of the chapters in which Paul elucidates the basic truths of marriage is 1 Corinthians chapter 7. Here Paul takes the basic things that the Lord said. He even refers to some of the statements of the Lord, and he goes on from there to make application of those statements. There is a great gamut of things covered in the seventh chapter, and we'll have to take them as they come.

And I'm sure when we're done, we'll have a great amount of information that'll be very helpful to us. But of course, the most important thing is not to just learn what it says, but to do what it says and to make application in our lives, and of course, that's our prayer. Now a footnote to begin with. Many people, unfortunately, have decided that the first thing to do with the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians is just chuck it, just get rid of it because there are disclaimers throughout the chapter. Paul is trying to tell us that this chapter is nothing but his opinion. And they say, you see, if you look, for example, at verse 12, he says, But to the rest speak I, not the Lord. So he wants to make it very clear to begin with that this is his opinion, not God's. And then these folks will tell us that verse 25 again supports this, Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord. So I have nothing to say from God.

I'm just going to shoot my math off here, take up some space. Then verse 40, She is happier if she so abide after my judgment, and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. And here we find that he doesn't know whether he's got God or not. So they would say to us that this is a rather hopeless attempt at mixing opinion with revelation, and the best thing to do is junk it. However, that's a rather ridiculous view since Paul's statements there are easily explicable if they're seen in another light. What Paul is saying here, and I agree that there is no such assortment of sentences in any other chapter that he ever wrote, what he is saying here is very interesting. The reason that he says in verse 12, To the rest speak I, not the Lord, is not to say that what he says is unimportant, but to say that what he says is new truth. It is not quoting something from the Gospels that our Lord said. Back up to verse 10 and you'll see what I mean.

Under the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband. And you see he quotes right out of the Lord's words in Mark 10. So when he says it's not the Lord but myself, he is saying I'm no longer quoting the teaching of Jesus. He is not saying it doesn't matter what I say and it's human opinion, no. He is simply saying sometimes I'm quoting Christ, sometimes I'm not.

It's as if he says quote end quote. And really what he's doing is putting himself on an equal basis with Christ in terms of revelation. I've told you before I don't like red letter editions of the Bible because they assume that what Jesus said is more important than what anybody else said. It's all the revelation of the Spirit of God. And when Paul says the Lord said this but I said this, he isn't saying what I say doesn't matter.

He's saying we're on the same level in terms of inspiration. The Spirit of God has given me these truths. So Paul is simply saying if I'm quoting the Lord, I'll say it.

If I'm not, I'll tell you it's not a quote of the Lord's. It's some new information. Now he then begins in chapter 7 to speak of the practical side of marriage, sometimes quoting the Lord for the basic theological principle, and then going on to speak the new truth of the practical. Now in order for us to understand the context of his writing, we'd have to know something of the problems of the Corinthians. And in order for us to know the problems of the Corinthians, we'd have to know something about the time in which they lived.

And there are some most fascinating things to know. Marriage was a big problem to the Corinthians. They had all kinds of problems about what to do in in terms of marriage. Verse 1, look at it, concerning the things about which you wrote unto me. Now the Corinthians wrote a letter to Paul.

It most likely was delivered by the people mentioned in chapter 16 verse 17, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achakas, who came along from Corinth. And the Corinthians had four major questions they were asking Paul. And from chapter 7 through 11, he deals with the questions they asked in the letter.

Before that, he speaks what he wants to, and after that, chapter 12, he says, now I'm going back to spiritual things, back to the things that concern me. But this little block in the middle are the things they were asking him about. They had some specific questions.

They wanted some information about marriage. Chapter 7 deals with that. They had questions about things offered to idols. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 deal with that. They had questions about women in the church. Chapter 11 deals with that, and about the Lord's table, also, in chapter 11.

Those four major areas were great concerns of theirs because they were having problems with the adjustment of the life of the church and the community in relation to that. Marriage was one of the problems, and that's the one he begins to deal with in chapter 7. Now let me tell you a little bit about the Roman marital situation. In the first place, Rome had no uniform set of marital laws. You could get married at least four different ways, all of which were recognized as marriage in some sense. The first thing would be that there were many slaves, tens and hundreds of thousands of slaves, and they weren't even considered humans, so they didn't even have any of the rights of a citizen, really. And when they wanted to get married or come together in what really was just a living together rather than an official marriage, the owner of the slaves would agree to what was called a contubernium, which simply means tent companionship. The owner would say, all right, you two can live in a tent together, and that consummated a certain kind of slave marriage. Now if he didn't like the way they were doing together and he didn't particularly care for the situation, the slave owner could go in there and take him apart, or he could sell off the husband, or he could sell off the wife. So you had a lot of real problems in the early church because so many of the early Christians were slaves, and they would have had such mixed up marital backgrounds. Now what is the early church going to do?

Is the apostle going to say, all right, all of you that are just tent companions, cut it out. Get out of there. It isn't fair. It's not right. The Bible doesn't say that.

Doesn't say they said that. What Paul did do was not try to break up everything, but to try to teach them the sanctity of the marriage that they had, whatever the legal basis of it. If they were living together under a tent companionship thing, he would simply say to them, stay together, prove yourselves true to one another, love one another, make everything of that marriage that God designed it to be.

Because that's really all the choice they had as slaves. There was another way that you could be married, another kind of relationship, and this was called usus. U-S-U-S. And this particular custom meant that a woman and a man could live together for one year. At the end of the one year, they would become identified as husband and wife.

Today we would call that what? Common law marriage. That was a way to be married. So the church would have had to face people who were common law married, who had no legal paper or anything to identify their marriage. And again, the New Testament doesn't say anything about what they ought to do other than the sanctity of the marriage that exists under whatever it exists.

Just maintain it. There was another way, coemptio in manum, which was marriage by sale, where the father sold his girl to the husband. The guy would come across with the right price.

He could have the daughter. It was somewhat facetious, but that's how it worked out. So there was the kind of marriage coemptio in manum, which was a sort of a worked out thing financially. But the most elevated, the most noble, the patrician people married under the thing that was called confariatio, a coming together on a high level. This was the classy kind of marriage.

And you want to know something very interesting? The entire marriage ceremony as we know it today in the Christian church comes from this pagan Roman marriage. It does not come from Hebrew custom in the Old Testament.

It does not come from a New Testament basis. It's entirely the Roman pagans ceremony. In fact, the Hebrew wedding lasted how long? Normally seven days.

So you know we're not in that bag anymore. We're way far from the Hebrew customary wedding. But this one was a one afternoon or a one evening thing. The two families came together. They picked out a matron who would be like the maid of honor and a best man type thing. The couple joined their right hands. That's why we still do that in a marriage ceremony. They recited vows. And after the vows, there were prayers offered.

That's the standard procedure, only they offered the prayers to Jupiter and Juno. There were flowers. Flowers were customary and a bridal wreath was really the beginning of what we know today as the bridal bouquet. The bride always wore a veil which was lifted. There was a ring and that's where the whole idea of the wedding ring began. And it was always put on the same finger, this finger where I've got mine where you've got yours, because in their wonderful ability of medical science, in their dissecting of the human body, they discovered that a nerve ran from the middle of this finger right to the heart.

And since that nerve was connected to the heart, that's the place where the ring ought to go. That whole thing was the Roman system of marriage. When all that was over, they went to another place and believe it or not, they had a cake. That's right. So now you know where the whole custom came from. Now here are four different ways. They come into a church. The church is founded and people are married or sort of married or living together or whatever.

There were all kinds of problems. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Draw new laws for the Roman Empire?

Can't do that. The church can't impose its laws on the Roman Empire. What Paul does, what all the New Testament writers and teachers would do, would be to simply teach the sanctity of marriage.

Whatever way you happen to get into it, just make the most of it now that you're there. That's the point. Now those were some of the problems they were dealing with, but add to that, here were the real great problems. The moral character within marriage had so been destroyed that divorce was very, very rampant. There are records of people who had been married as many as 27, 28, 29 times. They counted their years by their wives and it was a high divorce rate. There was immorality. There was rampant homosexuality, concubinage. Men used their wives to clean up the house and cook the meals and do whatever else and then they had other women for their pleasure.

This was a bad situation. On top of all of that, did you know that at the time of the Apostle Paul, in those days in the Roman Empire, there was a feminist rebellion? Nothing new has ever happened, folks. I want you to know that. Nothing new. Solomon was right.

There's nothing new under the sun. And this is a quote from Jeremy Carcapino, who's written an interesting book called Daily Life in Rome. It said, alongside the heroines of the aristocracy, the irreproachable wives, and the excellent mothers who were still found within its ranks, it is easy to cite emancipated or rather unbridled wives who evaded the duties of maternity for fear of losing their good looks. Some took a pride in being behind their husbands in no sphere of activity and vied with them in tests of strength which their sex would have seemed to forbid. Some were not content to live their lives by their husband's side but carried on another life without him. Whether because of voluntary birth control or because of the impoverished stock, many Roman marriages at the end of the first and beginning of the second centuries were childless.

The movement even became more widespread. Juvenile, he says, this is a quote, with spear in hand and breasts exposed who took to pig sticking. Others attended chariot races in men's clothing and some became wrestlers. You always wondered where women wrestlers got their start in ancient Rome. Juvenile says this, again writing from the Roman viewpoint, what modesty can you expect in a woman who wears a helmet, hates her own sex, and delights in feats of strength, end quote.

Not exactly my kind of woman to admit. Before long, marriage began to suffer. Vows were violated. Women demanded to live their own lives and as soon as the women wanted out, the husbands could take about so much of that and then they were happy to let them out. And men began to discard their women as fast as women began to leave. And they would discard their women for going out without a veil, for speaking to the wrong person in public, for going somewhere or doing something without asking their permission. They would divorce a woman to get a richer one.

Cicero did that. And women began to shed husbands. Juvenile writes, thus does she lord it over her husband, but before long she vacates her kingdom.

She flits from one house to another wearing out her bridal veil, end quote. So you can see that the picture of marriage, it was a very confused thing. There was in and out of marriage. Divorce was rife. There were problems with who's really married and who's not married and what about the guy who used to live in tent companionship and somebody sold off his wife? Can he remarry again? And they had a lot of problems about resolving everything. Well, let me add one other problem. In the midst of all of this, some would suggest that the best way out is never to get married.

Just forget the whole thing. And they began to elevate that to the idea of celibacy becoming a spiritually elite people. If you weren't married and you were single and you were celibate, you were sort of a spiritual super person.

You had denied yourself the flesh. You had laid aside all of those things and totally devoted yourself to Jesus Christ. And there was a prevailing view in the Corinthian church that celibacy was the highest form of Christian life, to never get married, to have no sexual relationship at all. And it got so bad that people were not only not getting married, but condemning the people who were married and the people who were married were leaving their partners in order to be celibate so they could be more spiritual. And people who were married to an unbeliever were getting out fast because there was supposedly a defilement in being married to an unbeliever and having a sexual relationship with an unbeliever. So the Corinthian church had a lot of problems about marriage.

Some people were banging the gavel for celibacy and of course the Jews would be banging the gavel for marriage because they thought it was a sin not to be married. So the Corinthians had a lot of questions and they wrote and asked him, help us with the problem of marriage. And so in this middle section he stops to help them about this subject of what to do about marriage and celibacy, etc., etc. Now I want you to look and we'll look at the seventh chapter.

I want you to look at four key ideas that appear in the first seven verses. And they deal with the whole problem of whether to be celibate or married, whether to be single or married. Some of you people are caught in the throes of this thing right now. You don't know whether to get married or not to get married. Some of you don't have any option at this point. You're either single and haven't found anybody interested or you're married and you're stuck. But some of you do have that option and you don't know whether to look for somebody to marry or whether or not to. You don't know whether it's right to remarry or whatever. So maybe the Spirit of God will pinpoint some things that will help you. Four key ideas coming at the problem from the standpoint of celibacy or being single.

And you can follow along as we look. Number one, celibacy is good. Verse one, now concerning the things about what she wrote unto me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Now we'll stop there. Now that sounds, if you just take that literally, it sounds a little picky, right? I remember when I was in high school, it was advertised that this particular church group was going on a hayride and there was this one lady who was going to be the chaperone. And she was really, really a prudish person. And so we had a hayride with two wagons.

Boys on one wagon, girls on the other wagon. I will never forget that. I mean, talk about a bummer. That's it, right?

You know, that rivals the school I heard about where the basketball team wore long pants. You know, I mean, you can just take things a little too far. But this was the situation.

And her justification, I'll never forget, we got this little talk about 1 Corinthians 7, 1. If you were there, you might be bumping, touching. It's good for a man not to touch a woman. Well, folks, if you take that as a blanket literal statement, Adam and Eve would have been the last people that ever lived on the face of the earth. That's not the point.

It's not talking about that. The concept, touching a woman, is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. That's what it means.

That is its significance. And I can show that to you very simply from several Old Testament passages. The first one is Genesis 20 verse 6. And here was a potential case where adultery could have been committed in the family of Abraham. But in verse 6, God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst dis in the integrity of thy heart, for I also withheld thee from sinning against me. Therefore, allowed I thee not to touch her.

To touch her means to have a physical relationship. In Ruth chapter 2, Ruth and Boaz, Boaz had that desire to keep Ruth pure. Let thine eyes be on the field, Ruth 2 9, that they do reap, and go thou after them. Have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? In Proverbs, I'll give you one more, 6 29, So he that goeth into his neighbor's wife, whosoever touches her, shall not be innocent. And of course, you know, it isn't talking about a tap on the shoulder. It's talking about a relationship.

Physical, sexual, that's the idea. So verse 1 is saying it is good not to have a sexual relationship. And he's simply saying it is good to be single. It is good for a man not to be married. It is good. Now you say, whoa, John, how can you say, that's what it says in the Bible.

Now notice something, folks, before you all panic. He does not say it is the only good. It is also good to be married. He is simply saying it isn't evil to be single. You know, that's a problem today because so many people think if you're not married, something's wrong with you.

Well, she's not married. I wonder where the quirks are. There's got to be something wrong. There must be some skeletons in the closet.

We have those little innuendos and inferences. We say poor fella must have some abnormalities. Can't find anybody in this whole world that'll take you on. You're in bad shape.

Bad shape. But he says, look, it is a good thing not to be married. He's already talked about the sexual immorality thing in chapter 6. That's not what he's talking about here. He's talking about marriage. Now he doesn't say it's bad to get married, and he doesn't say it's better to be single.

He just says it's kalas. It's profitable. It's beneficial. It's good to be unmarried. Nothing wrong with that at all.

It's very good. He's not using comparatives. He's stating a fact. Now the reason it's so urgent that he say this is because of the Jews in the church. The Jews, you see, used to teach that if you didn't have a wife, you were a sinner. They said this, a man who does not have a wife and a child has slain his posterity and lessened the image of God in the world. Seven kinds of people couldn't get to heaven. They had a list. Number one on the list, a Jew who has no wife.

Number two, a wife who has no children. The Jews said, God said, be fruitful and multiply, and if you don't, you're disobedient to the commands of God. Now no doubt this pressure was coming on the Corinthian church from the Jewish members. They were saying, you've got to be married. And the Gentiles who didn't want to get into the big mishmash of marriage and who wanted to get some higher devotional level to God were saying, forget it, man.

We're going to get it, man. We're going to be celibate, and we're going to strictly remove ourselves from marriage and live a life totally given over to God. And Paul is starting out by saying it's good to be single. He says, fine, nothing wrong with that at all.

You say, well, what about the Old Testament? It says it's not good for man to be alone. Well, you can be single and still not be alone. You can have friends. Psalm 68, 6 says God sets the solitary in families.

Maybe your family is your friends, but God will give you somebody to fulfill the need for other friends. But it's good to be single. If you're single, it's good. It's not bad. It's not evil. It's not wrong.

It's good. That's John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, looking to God's word for guidelines for singleness and marriage here on Grace to You. Well, friend, John dedicated much of today's lesson to the ancient biblical culture, showing you how the Apostle Paul dealt with the morality of his day. That kind of historical cultural insight is a crucial part of studying the Bible, and few Bible study tools make that analysis more accessible than our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible. To get your copy, contact us today. To order the MacArthur Study Bible, call toll-free 855-GRACE or go to our website, Choose from the New American Standard, New King James, and English Standard versions.

We also have many non-English translations, including Spanish, German, Italian, and others. Again, to order the MacArthur Study Bible, call 855-GRACE or log on to And friend, if you're benefiting from the teaching you hear on this weekly broadcast, thanks for remembering that we are able to produce these programs because of the financial support of people like you. We're committed to using your support to help people in your community and all over the English and Spanish-speaking world grow from verse-by-verse Bible teaching that transforms lives. To express your support, write to us at Grace to You, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Or you can call us at 800-55-GRACE or go to our website,

That's Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson with a question for you. What is the point of marriage? Why did God create it? Consider that tomorrow, when John continues his series, Guidelines for Singleness and Marriage, with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-07 06:25:03 / 2023-02-07 06:36:53 / 12

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