So we are to get married then because if we don't, we're going to put ourselves in a terrible place of temptation. But that doesn't mean that you run out without really considering what you're doing and marry the first available person just so you don't get in trouble.
You'll be in more trouble then than you ever thought you were in. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Who needs marriage? That was the title of a Time magazine cover story some years back. The article looked at the falling marriage rate here in the U.S. and the rising number of couples living together before marriage. And in the end, the author said that marriage wasn't as popular these days as in years past. But he said, quote, it's still the best avenue most people have for making their dreams come true. Well, is that really the benefit of marriage?
Making dreams come true? Bottom line, what is the point of marriage? And why did God create it? Why should believers embrace the institution of marriage? And is marriage right for every Christian? Today on Grace To You, John MacArthur answers those and other questions as he continues his practical study, guidelines for singleness and marriage. So turn with us to the book of 1 Corinthians, and here is John.
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. Number one, celibacy is good.
Verse one. Now concerning the things about which you wrote unto me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. So verse one is saying it is good not to have a sexual relationship. And he's simply saying it is good to be single. 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. If you're single, it's good. It's not bad. It's not evil. It's not wrong.
It's good. But point two, celibacy is not only good, it's tempting. And this is usually the complaint of single people. Yeah, I understand that it's good. It's just really hard to be single.
Very difficult. Verse two. Nevertheless, even though it's good, on account of immoralities, let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband.
Now notice the command. Let every woman have her own husband. Let every man have his own wife.
Those are commands. He says, everybody get married. It's good to be single, but everybody get married. Why?
On account of what? Immorality. Listen, being single is good, but it's tempting.
It's tempting. And the gross style of Corinthian life made it harder for the unmarried to be pure, just like it does in our day. You know, so many unmarried people have problems today because of the constant barrage of sexual temptation being thrown at them. Now he's not saying that marriage is the absolute demand for everybody. He is saying the norm is everybody gets married. Because it is normal to have physical desire.
And I'll show you how this works in a minute. You say, well, Paul, you've got a rotten view of marriage. Marriage is just so you don't get in trouble. And if you've got a lot of desire, find anybody just so you don't get in trouble.
Just get anybody to marry. Is that what you're saying? No. He is simply answering one problem. He is simply answering the argument that everybody should be single by saying everybody can't be single or you're going to get into immorality because the desire is too strong. The norm is everybody has his own wife. Notice the word own prohibits polygamy. And every woman have her own husband. That's God's design. Now you say, but is that the only reason to get married?
No. I've got six reasons to get married, the Bible gives. Six biblical reasons for marriage.
I'll start with a P. You ready? Number one, procreation. Genesis 1 28 says to be fruitful and multiply and you're supposed to have children. That's one reason to get married, to have children. And that's a good reason to get married. God wants to reproduce, especially godly people.
Secondly, pleasure. Another reason to get married is pleasure. Did you know that God designed marriage just for physical pleasure? Just to enjoy.
Hebrews 13 4, the bed is undefiled. In other words, it's an enjoyable experience. Marriage is honorable. Marriage is enjoyable. Proverbs 5 talks about the satisfaction that a husband finds in the physical body of his wife and vice versa.
Song of Solomon from beginning to end. All it is is physical satisfaction, isn't it? Pleasure. And you read in the Bible about one of the Old Testament patriarchs sporting with his wife.
I always like that. And that's part of it. That's part of the marriage situation, pleasure. So procreation pleasure. Thirdly, marriage is provision. Another reason for marriage is provision. God wants a man to provide what a woman needs.
The woman, says Peter in 1 Peter 3, is the weaker vessel. And God knows that a man can support the weakness of a woman. God wants the man to provide for the woman, to nourish her.
Ephesians 5 says to cherish her, to strengthen her, to give her something to lean on, to fortify her. So it's procreation, it's pleasure, it's provision. It's also partnership.
Marriage is for partnership. In the Old Testament, God says you need a helpmeet, right? You need a helper. You don't need to do things alone.
You need a helper. And so it is for partnership. God gives us a friend. And I think really the key ingredient in marriage is friendship, a partner. Fourth, marriage is a picture. Marriage is given as a picture.
Ephesians 5 says it is a symbol to the world of God's relationship to his church. And lastly, marriage is for purity, to keep us from committing fornication. So marriage is for procreation, pleasure, provision, partnership, picture, and purity. Those are the reasons the Bible gives. And Paul isn't only simplifying everything to this.
He's just dealing with one aspect. So we are to get married then because if we don't, we're going to put ourselves in a terrible place of temptation. But that doesn't mean that you run out without really considering what you're doing and marry the first available person just so you don't get in trouble.
You'll be in more trouble then than you ever thought you were in. But that's just one of the reasons. Don't just marry for the sake of purity if you're not also marrying for the sake of pleasure, if you're not also marrying for the sake of the picture of Christ and His church and you're intending on nourishing and cherishing her, et cetera, et cetera. So marriage is the norm. Celibacy is good. But let's face it, celibacy is also tempting. Third point.
Celibacy is wrong for married people. They say, well, that's obvious. Well, I don't know how obvious it was to the Corinthians that Paul had to spend three verses clearing it up. Verse 3.
Let me give you the background. What happens is here's these Corinthians. They get saved and immediately they say, well, in order for us to be totally set apart into God, we're going to stop all of our physical relationships. Some overzealous husband decides he's going to give all of his devotion to God and says, I'm not going to do anything physical with you anymore, dear. Or some overzealous wife says, I'm now totally committed to Jesus Christ. I can't have anything to do with you, especially since you're not a Christian.
I don't want a thing to do with you physically. And that's what was happening in Corinth. So how are you going to deal with it? Verse 3. Let the husband render to the wife, the translation is the debt. Let the husband render unto the wife the debt and likewise also the wife unto the husband. Look, you have an obligation in your marriage to give to one another what you owe one another. This is a debt. You are a debtor, men, to your wife. Ladies, you are a debtor to your husband.
Even if he's a non-Christian, you owe him a debt. Marriage has its obligations, friends. You are to pay your debts to one another, fulfilling your duty to one another, pay what you owe. Present imperative in the Greek, continuously rendering to the wife the debt and likewise the wife continuously rendering to the husband the debt.
And what is the debt? I think he's talking about physical sexual relationship. What he's saying is, look, now that you're a Christian, doesn't change that. You continue in marriage to fulfill the sexual desires of each other.
I believe that's what he's talking about here simply because that's the context that immediately follows, and I'll show it to you in a minute. See, God made the physical a great part of marriage. I know there are some Christian people who even in their marriage are very prudish.
And I don't want to shock you. I just want to show you what the Bible says. But in marriage, your union physically can be expressed in any way that you want. This is God's design for the fulfillment of pleasure.
The Bible glorifies it. In fact, the book of Song of Solomon has a whole book written just on the physical part of marriage. God designed marriage to be the physical expression of love. He honors the sexual desire of marriage. So Paul is saying, look, you have an obligation to one another to fulfill the physical desire and the physical love and the physical need that each other has. Mutual sexual love in marriage is God's design, and it's your duty to one another. It's a vehicle for the expression of that love.
And you know, the very act of sex itself strengthens that love. So Paul says, pay your debt to one another. Verse 4, here he explains it further. The wife hath not power of her own body but the husband, and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body but the wife. Now two imperatives in the preceding verses are followed by two indicatives here that state facts. Pay your dues to one another.
Why? Because you have released the authority over your body to your partner. Look at verse 4. The wife has not exousia, authority over her own body but the husband. Ladies, your body belongs to him. Men, your body belongs to her. That's right. For whatever particular expression she has in mind or you have in mind, that sharing is the thing that God designed.
And it's a present tense, incidentally, here. Lifelong. The wife continually lifelong does not have authority over her own body. So when you say to your wife, dear, you're mine.
And she says to you, honey, you're mine. That is the truest thing in the purest sense that you could say right out of the Word of God. And you can quote this verse to each other in its fullness and know that God supports that desire that you have for one another. Now in a simple sense, the wife's body is her own as God has given it to her. In a spiritual sense, it is the Lord's. According to Romans 12, 1, present your body. But in a marital sense, the body belongs to the partner.
And the same is true of the man. A beautiful way to express the sharing of marriage. The physical, I am for you and you are for me. If you need me, then I am yours. And if I need you, then you are mine.
That's it. Don't break up your marriage because you became a Christian. There isn't any high level of sanctity to celibacy. It's good to be single, but listen, it's great to be married if that's what God's given you.
Don't violate that. He's given you the gravy, man. If you're married, Peter calls it the grace of life. What he means, it's the whipped cream on the sundae. It's the gravy. It's the grace of life. Life is great and life is abundant and life abounds for the Christian, but the gravy is to get married.
It's exciting. Marriage then is a permanent surrender of everything I am to my partner. I am hers in absolutely the fullest and truest sense. Now he goes a step further and he makes an application, verse 5. Stop depriving one the other. Now here were these people depriving each other of the physical relationship. Well, I'm sorry, dear. Now that we belong to the Lord, we mustn't do that.
No, no. Stop doing that. Accept it be with consent for a time that you may give yourselves to prayer and come together again that Satan tempt you not for your lack of self-control. Now he says, look, there may be times when you agree not to have physical relationships because you want to pray. You have decided to pray.
That's the exception, he said. Now I want to give you some guidelines. Are you ready?
Here they come. If you're going to not enter into sexual activity, physical activity, here are the guidelines. Number one, accept it be with consent. You have to have a mutual agreement. The word with consent is the Greek word that is the source of our word symphony. Unless your hearts are in symphony, abstention is involuntary on the part of one, then forget it. Because if you force a withdrawal, if you force an abstention from the physical, that's robbing the partner.
Unless there's mutual consent. And notice this, for a time, not for a long time, but a set time, not indefinitely, but a prescribed time. We are going to pray for this next five days, dear, and we're going to agree to this because God has laid on our heart a burden. We're going to give ourselves that that's a time. Notice, and it is to be prayer.
Fasting is not in the better manuscripts. It's not, that could be a part of the prayer time, but it doesn't seem to be in the earlier manuscripts. You give yourselves to prayer. Now this should be mutual agreement. It isn't, you know, when your wife whispers sweet nothings in your ear and you say don't bother me, I'm praying.
That isn't the idea. The idea is when you have agreed to pray about a specific thing. There's a definite article in the Greek, the prayer, indicating there was a definite, specific, continuous kind of burden. And what may happen in your life, and maybe you've experienced this, probably all of us have, is that there comes into your life a great spiritual reality, a great spiritual struggle, or something that you recognize as a tremendous need. And you lose the desire and the craving for the physical and you become lost in the struggle of the spiritual in seeking out the will and the revelation of God's plan. And that becomes the consuming thing. That may happen. There may be times in your life when you've fallen into sin and you go through a time of purification and your heart needs to be given over totally to the Lord.
If that's the case, then you need to withdraw from the physical relationship for a while. This was done in history, Exodus 19, 15, for one place. The Mosaic covenant had been given. God wanted the children of Israel to straighten their hearts out and get right with him. So he said, come not near your wives, Exodus 19, 15. Separate yourself physically for a time, talks about three days, for a time of purification and concentration on the things of the Lord.
In Zechariah, the future, when our Lord comes and the great day when he arrives in the world and the Jews realize who they have slain in the past. It says in Zechariah 12, 10, God is going to pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication. They'll look on me whom they have pierced and they'll mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, etc., etc.
And it says, let, verse 12, it says, let every family be apart, the family of the house of David apart, their wives apart, the family of Nathan apart, the family of Levi, of Shimei, all the families that remain, every family apart and their wives apart. In that great time of mourning and spiritual concentration, separation. So there may be times at mutual consent for prayer, a greater desire for spiritual things takes over and that physical falls away. But notice the end of verse 5, and then come together again. Let it be only for that time of prayer, temporary.
Why? Simply because of this, that Satan tempt you not for your lack of self-control. Listen, you know, there are people who use the sexual aspect of marriage, I mean so many do, to manipulate what they want. Well, you know, if the husband doesn't do everything the wife wants, that's it, man, you know, he's on the couch. Or if the wife doesn't do everything the husband wants, he couldn't care less.
He didn't even bother with her. And the husband knows just exactly what he has to do to get the right response. So he does it like sort of like a poor little puppy dog who has to do what he has to do in order to get what he has to get. Listen, when you withhold from your partner for any reason, you put that partner in a place where Satan will tempt them toward their lack of self-control. The first thing that happens is not only the bitterness and the anguish and anxiety that comes between the two, but then the evil thought that comes into the mind, and then the entertainment of the evil thought, and very often it can lead to an adulterous situation. Anytime you withhold from your partner that which is rightfully theirs, you become the agent of Satan. Now, you say you love your wife, men, women, you say you love your husband, then don't ever put your husband or wife in a situation where they are open to the temptation of Satan simply because you're selfish. It isn't right. Now, this is practical stuff.
This gets right down to where we live, right where we're at. That's the way the Word of God is. If I say I love my wife, if you say you love your husband, if that's really true, then you would never willfully, openly put that person in a place where Satan begins to tempt them to carnality.
Sometimes, you know, we deal with people in the church and friends and we wonder why they have so much trouble walking in the Spirit. And maybe the reason is because they are so frustrated physically in their own marriage that they are constantly being bombarded with thoughts of this. That's not fair. You're not only robbing that person, you're putting them in a place of temptation and you become an agent of Satan. Celibacy is good. It's a good thing to be single, but it's tempting. And thirdly, it doesn't belong for married people. Fourth, and this sums it, celibacy is a gift. It is a gift, definitely. And some have it and some don't.
And the ones who don't find it very frustrating. Notice verse 6. But I speak this by permission and not by commandment. Now, you say, what does that mean? Well, probably the word permission is not a good translation. The word in the Greek means, in its verb form, to think the same as someone. To think the same as someone. In extra biblical writings, for example, in 2 Maccabees 14.31, the same word is translated aware.
It means awareness. Paul is saying, I'm saying what I'm saying because I am aware of your human needs, not as a commandment. In other words, when I said let everybody get married, I don't mean that I am commanding you all to get married.
I'm simply laying this out as the norm because I'm aware of your human needs. Look, he says, don't you people be celibate? Celibacy is a good thing, but get married. And when you get married, fulfill your marriage.
And I'm not commanding that you have to get married, but because I am aware of your needs, I'm suggesting this is the best thing. And the only reason you should not get married and fulfill that is verse 7. I would that all men were even as I myself, but every man hath his proper gift of God.
One after this man or another after that. Let's face it, he says, I wish you could all be like me and not have to be married. But this is a gift.
I happen to have it. You may not. Now here's a beautiful thought, people. While marriage is not a command, it is stressed as the norm because of the problem of staying pure. And within marriage, the physical should be continually dealt with and fulfilled in order to keep that purity.
It is best to be married, but there are some, he says, like me, and I wish there were more, who don't have to be married because they have a special gift of God. Next time you see a single person, don't assume in your mind that there's something warped about them. Don't assume poor soul must have bad breath or socially unacceptable personality traits.
Don't assume that. You might assume, first of all, that maybe they have a charisma of God. That they are a uniquely prepared and designed human being gifted with the Holy Spirit and gifted by the Holy Spirit for singleness. Now I have a gift, several spiritual gifts.
So do you. Well, here is another spiritual gift that perhaps could be added to the list in a little different sense, and that is the gift of being single. Paul says, sure, it's the norm to marry. I wish you could all be like me. You say, well, Paul, why would you want to be like you?
Man alive, I couldn't stand being single. That's because you don't have the gift. What is the gift, Paul? It's the gift to be single and not be consumed by lust.
You see? The gift isn't just being single. That isn't a gift to some people.
That is torture. The gift is being single and loving it. The gift is being single and not being tempted. The gift is being single and not being preoccupied with not being single. That's the gift. And Paul says, hey, I'm not married and I don't need marriage.
Now maybe he was once in his life, but he isn't now. God, since he was saved, gave him the gift of celibacy, the gift to be single and never need a woman. You say, I can't imagine it. No, because if you don't have the gift, you can't imagine it.
I can't imagine it. You know, but I've often thought to myself, I love my wife, you know, totally and completely, and my kids, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But you know, I can understand what Paul says when he says, I wish you could be single. There are some things in the ministry that a single man could really do that a married man can't.
Look at verse 32 of the seventh chapter. I would have you without care. I mean, wouldn't it be neat if you didn't have any care? If he that is unmarried cares only for the things of the Lord. But verse 33, if you're married, you care for the things that are of the world.
What? How you please your wife. Well, it gets right down to it. You know, if you're married, let's face it, you've got certain things you have to care about.
You've got to prepare, and you've got to take care of, and you've got to give time to your kids and time to your wife. And man, if you're single, sometimes I think, wouldn't it be amazing if you could just move and just be free? God has given some people this marvelous, marvelous gift. I'll never forget meeting missionaries. I always think running around down there in a jungle from one Indian tribe to the next, totally alone, without any need for marriage, the gift of celibacy or life is absolutely fulfilled in pouring yourself into these people. And there are people like that around the world.
What a unique and blessed gift, and it comes from God, but not everybody has it. So Paul says to the Corinthians, look, some people be single if you have a gift of God for it, and you can be single and not be preoccupied with sex. But the norm is be married and stay married. Jesus even said the same thing. Jesus talked about the fact that being single is a good thing.
He didn't disparage it. In Matthew 19, listen to this. He says, there are some eunuchs who are so born from their mother's womb, and there are some eunuchs who are made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, that is, people who have decided not to marry so they can serve the Lord.
He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. I mean, if you're able, Jesus said, and Paul further defines it as a gift of the Holy Spirit. You know, to be single means you can do certain things that you otherwise couldn't do, and God needs single people. Thank God if you're single and have no desire for marriage.
That's a gift of God. Use it. If you're married, you've got the gravy on life. Live it up. Enjoy it.
One has one, one hasn't. So he says to the Corinthian church, listen, every man has his gift. Most of you, be married, stay married, and fulfill the physical part of marriage. Don't abstain from it, except for a brief time of prayer. You that are single, if it's single and without desire for fulfillment in marriage, single and totally given over to the Lord and loving it, then thank God for the beautiful gift that he's given.
So he lays the principle. Celibacy is good. Marriage is good.
It just depends on which God designs for you. That's John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, with a study that is laying out guidelines for singleness and marriage. That's the title of our study here on Grace to You. Before we're done here, we want to draw your attention to something special that we have planned for tomorrow, February 9th, and what's the big deal about February 9th, John?
I'll let you give the details on that. Well, February 9th was the day that I showed up at Grace Church, my first Sunday as a pastor. 1969, February 9th.
1969, and that is 54 years ago. So February 9th, 2023 is my 54th anniversary as pastor teacher of Grace Community Church here in Los Angeles. That's an amazing milestone. Congratulations.
Well, it is. It's incredible, and I'm so thankful. What a blessing from the Lord to have a congregation that you can shepherd for 54 years. But thinking about 54, and that's pretty unusual for pastoral ministry to last that long. It's kind of one of those in-between years, and you don't normally celebrate a 54th anniversary.
But we're going to do something very, very special, and here it is. We're going to offer the complete MacArthur New Testament commentary series. That's 33 volumes. We're going to offer tomorrow at the lowest price ever. The 54th anniversary price is $354. That's less than $10.50 a volume. Keep in mind, the MacArthur New Testament commentary is 33 volumes, including an index volume that is very helpful.
Now, don't grab your phone yet. The day to place your order is tomorrow, February 9th. And note that we are able to make this special offer only to the first 250 orders. And if you happen to be the 251st person who wants to order the commentaries, we'll still have a great discount for you, 25% off our normal price. That discount will run through February 17th. But for the lowest price ever, get ready to contact us tomorrow online or by phone so that you can be one of the first 250 people to order the MacArthur New Testament commentary series for $354, our lowest price ever for the complete set.
That's right, and friend, one quick note. This offer is available only on Canadian and U.S. orders. Again, tomorrow is the day to take advantage of the best pricing ever on the complete MacArthur New Testament commentary series. So contact us as early as possible tomorrow to place your order.
You can call our toll-free number, 855-GRACE, or go to our website, gty.org. Again, this special offer is available tomorrow only. We have 250 complete sets of the MacArthur New Testament commentary series, each available for $354, the lowest price ever, and shipping is still free.
Again, that's tomorrow, February 9th, and even if you're not one of the first 250 orders, you can still order the commentary set at 25% off the normal price, which is also a great deal. So call tomorrow to place your order, 855-GRACE, or go to gty.org. And while you're at gty.org, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources available to you, including our blog with practical articles on subjects like salvation, spiritual growth, spiritual gifts. And don't forget, you can download all of John's sermons for free. Find all those free Bible study tools at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to take some time and watch Grace To You television this Sunday. And join us tomorrow for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You. .
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