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We Two Are One (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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June 8, 2022 4:00 am

We Two Are One (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 8, 2022 4:00 am

In Genesis 2, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Then He created Eve. So why does the apostle Paul suggest that it’s good to stay single? Is he contradicting Scripture? Hear the answer on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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In the book of Genesis we read that God created the woman because it was not good for the man to be alone.

So did the Apostle Paul contradict the Old Testament when he suggested that it's good for a man not to marry. We'll hear the answer today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg teaches a message titled, We Two Are One. Hushed our hearts to listen in expectancy. For Jesus' sake.

Amen. In chapters 5 and 6, Paul has addressed matters which were uppermost in his mind, and now as he comes to chapter 7, he tells us that he's going to tackle some of the issues over which there had been specific questions. As you read the totality of the letter, you discover in chapter 16 a number of individuals who were perhaps the bearers of a letter to Paul which contained a number of the questions that he felt duty-bound to address in writing this letter to the church in Corinth. The first of the matters which he chooses to tackle is not a surprise to us.

Indeed, it really follows directly from what he's been addressing. He's been considering the whole matter of sexuality and the place of purity in the Christian life, and so, since there had been some questions regarding marriage and regarding the single state, he determines that as he endeavors to address the concerns that had been sent to him, he would begin with this matter of marriage. The situation in Corinth was, as we've said many times, not dissimilar to the situation in Cleveland. Marriages were in trouble, in deep trouble. There was incredible chaos which surrounded the whole nature of marriage and the place of singleness.

There were essentially four kinds of marriages in the Corinthian context. But the very fact that there was all of this disparity as it related to marriage and singleness was such that it wasn't surprising that people were concerned as to what might be done and what should be done. And some within the church at Corinth were clearly advocating singleness as the only way to be. The only way to deal with this, some people were saying, is to remain single and celibate—not purely from practical reasons, but also for spiritual reasons. And it was this spiritual overtone which made it so difficult, because individuals were saying the only way to live as a proper Christian is to live singly. If you are a single person and have become a Christian, they would say, make sure that you remain single.

Because if you are a Christian, you must have nothing to do with physical things, and you must refuse to marry altogether. So we had this kind of great plug for celibacy going around, and at the same time this untold chaos surrounding the whole matter of sexuality. So Paul says bravely, now for the matters you wrote about. Let me get down to it, and let me begin with an observation. If you're taking notes, that's the first heading—one word, observation. What is his observation? It is in one sentence. It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

This is his observation. Now, the phrase, not to touch a woman, was a euphemism, a common Jewish expression, for physical union within marriage. Hence the NIV translation, it is good for a man not to marry.

It obviously would not be taken in a wooden way that it is good for a man never to touch a woman, never to hug his sister, never to shake hands with a lady down the street, never to pat somebody on the back. That is not what it is saying. What he is saying is, it is actually good for a man not to get married. Now, it is important that we understand that when he says that it is good for a man not to marry, that he is not saying it is bad, therefore, for a man to marry.

That is the first and foremost mistake that is made in trying to tackle these verses. Someone says, it says that it is good for a man not to marry, therefore it is good for a man not to marry. It's obviously bad for a man to marry.

No! Wrong. He's simply saying that it's good for a man not to marry. Never make the Bible say more than it says. That's all he says. It's good for a man not to marry.

Why? Because there are obvious advantages in the kingdom of God to being single. The unmarried are able to serve God without the cares and responsibilities which marriage brings. And I don't think it is possible for us to understand this observation here in verse 1 except in the light of verse 32.

I would like you, he says, to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs, how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world, how he can please his wife, and his interests are divided. Verse 32 is the key to understanding this phrase, his observation, in verse 1.

And it's a very, very important point, and it needs to be underscored, especially at a time when singleness is embraced and even exalted, but certainly not on account of the concerns of the kingdom, which is Paul's great issue here. Perhaps it would be helpful for you, as it was for me, to think of this analogy which John Calvin used in an earlier generation. He said, for example, if we were to say it would be good for a man not to eat or drink or sleep—which, under certain circumstances, we could say it would be good not to do this.

It would be good not to eat or drink or sleep in certain contexts. This, says Calvin, would not be a dismissal of these things, rather a recognition that whatever time is given to them means less time can be given to spiritual things. Therefore, since there are many hindrances in married life which interfere with a man's freedom, it would be good for that reason not to be involved in marriage. Now, we must always interpret Scripture with Scripture. 1 Corinthians 7.1 says this. Genesis chapter 2 and verse 18 says that when God created man, he looked at the circumstances and he said, It is not good for the man to be alone.

I will make him a helper suitable to him. So God ordains creation, and he says, It is not good for a man to be alone, therefore I'll give him a wife. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7, It is good for a man not to get married.

Now, once again, we need to understand context. For the Jew, marriage was absolutely crucial. They didn't see marriage simply in terms of the ideal state, but they saw singleness as disobedience. Because after all, God had said, Be fruitful and multiply.

Populate the earth. Therefore, said the Jew, if you don't get married and go about the business that God intended, you're actually being disobedient. So there were some who were confused on that point. The Gentiles, perhaps because of the kind of sexual chaos out of which they had been coming, they were coming at it from the other angle. They were coming to regard celibacy or singleness as the only really godly way to live life. And they were saying, This is the only way you can live. The Jewish background was saying, You can't live that way. If you live that way, you're disobedient. And so Paul says, I want you to know that it is good for a man not to marry. It's not more spiritual to be married or to be unmarried, but it's okay if you don't get married.

Indeed, there are some distinct advantages to the single state. Now, some of the Jewish people wouldn't like to hear that, but they needed to hear that. That's his observation. Then comes the qualification as he goes into verse 2. But since, he says, there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. And there is some suggestion here that he is refuting any notions of polygamy, whereby you could have one and then have another one. He's saying, No, you just get one, and she's your own, or he's your own.

And you stick with that. Now, as with verse 1, it's very important that we understand what's being said in the wider context of Paul's instruction. Is this all that Paul ever said about marriage? Because if it was, and if this was all that the Bible taught concerning marriage, it provides for us a rather low view of it, wouldn't you say? The only reason to get married is because of sexual problems that may hinder you if you remain unmarried. Therefore, it would be far better, because there's so much immorality around, to go ahead and get married.

No. We need to recognize that when Paul wrote in the Ephesian letter, in Ephesians chapter 5, he expressed very clearly his understanding of marriage. I just want to turn you to it. I'm not going to expound it, but let me remind you that in Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 22 and following, he expresses his high and clear view of marriage. So what is he doing in verse 2 of chapter 7? He is not giving the reason as to why marriage has been instituted, but he is describing a necessary course of action for certain people who need it. This is not an explanation of the substance of marriage to prevent immorality.

It is something far grander than that. But, he says, in this Corinthian context, while it's okay to remain single, many of you can't remain single because of the lifestyle out of which you've come, and therefore because of the climate in which you find yourself. Just be practical about things, he's saying, and recognize that you ought to take a wife or you ought to take a husband.

Keep in mind always that he is dealing with a specific question in light of an actual historical situation. Now, we just need to recognize—and I'm not going to expound this this evening—that the Bible tells us that marriage is for all kinds of things. First of all, the Bible tells us that marriage is for procreation. You read this in Genesis chapter 1. God ordained marriage. He determined that it would be this way. And in Genesis chapter 1 and in verse 28, God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.

Okay? So in other words, part of the purpose of marriage was for procreation. Part of the purpose of marriage was also for pleasure within marriage.

Not least of all, within the whole realm of sexual fulfillment. Proverbs chapter 5 talks about delighting in the wife of one's youth. The book of Song of Solomon expresses in graphic terms the whole nature of physical union between a man and his wife. So marriage is ordained for procreation, it's ordained for pleasure, it is ordained also for partnership. Genesis chapter 2 and verse 18, the verse to which I've already referred, and the Lord God said, It's not good for the man to be alone.

I will make a helper suitable for him. Marriage has been ordained also as a picture of Christ and the church, Ephesians chapter 5, and marriage has been ordained in order to maintain purity in a world that is putrefying. So his observation is then developed in this qualification. And what he wants them to understand is that celibacy has peculiar dangers. To try and live the single life, if that is not what is intended, presents real challenges. Now, again, context is everything.

Remember, these people were expressing their sexual urges anywhere they wanted with anyone they wanted. Some people were saying to him, The only way you can live is in a married state. Paul says, No, don't say that. It's good for a man not to get married.

But because of the environment, recognize this. A man should take his wife, and a wife should take her own husband. So we have his observation in verse 1, we have the qualification in verse 2, and then he deals with his obligation in verse 3—the obligations which are unique to the marital status.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. Now, you've got to understand something here. What was happening was this. Some of these people had married as unbelievers. One of them became a Christian and got the crazy notion in their heads that the way to be a proper Christian was to be celibate. So not only did he come to faith in Jesus Christ, not only do they go bonkers as far as their marriage partner is concerned in going totally off the deep end in a religious realm, but even worse, they now move into a separate bedroom. And they turn the new bedroom into a shrine, and they start to say, The celibate life is the only life for the Christian.

And some of them were perpetuating this mythology and were gathering around the more and more people in the church to embrace such a view. So Paul says, Listen, I've got to tell you something very important. You are married, there is no place for celibacy in marriage. You didn't get married to live as a single. You're not supposed to be married as a single.

And the problem with our culture today is singles who are married physically without being married, and people who are married without being involved physically. Now, notice that the emphasis is not upon rights, but it's upon responsibilities, it's upon duties. Each one owes duties to the other, and Paul says, I want you to pay what you owe. I want you to notice that neither here nor in verse 4 does he stress the duty of either partner at the expense of the other, but he puts them exactly on a level. Where this stuff came about Paul being a misogynist, I really don't know, because he's very straightforward here.

The ground is level as it relates to this. Husband or wife, wife or husband, it's the same deal. You've got duties, and he says, I want you to fulfill your duties to your marriage partner. Incidentally, the tense of the verb is the present continuous tense, making it clear that this duty is a habitual duty and not a spasmodic duty. Now, one of the things I've asked God to help me with here in this is not to come at it at such a level that people are going, I'm not sure I can make any application of this, but not, on the other hand, to begin to make application of it that would demean the very word itself.

Those of you who are husband and wife, work it out for yourself. You have a duty to fulfill. The duty is a habitual duty.

It is not a spasmodic duty. Would I define habitual for you? No, I would not.

Would I define spasmodic? No, I would not. That's your problem. But understand what the verse says. Physical intimacy in marriage is not only sacred, but it is proper, and it is obligatory. It is obligatory. It's not simply a privilege, it's not simply a pleasure, but it is a responsibility. You say, Well, I haven't seen that in a movie. I haven't read that in a book.

Well, you've read it in one book right now, and I'm telling you straight. It's a responsibility. And the responsibility is on the part of each partner to give sexual satisfaction to the other. That's our duty. Paul says, I want you to pay your duty in the marriage framework.

Don't start this nonsense about celibacy as if you were some super-Christian. Now, this explanation follows in verse 4. The wife's body, he says, does not belong to her alone. It does belong to her alone, but also to her husband. Notice that little word. He doesn't say the wife's body does not belong to her, but it belongs to her husband.

You notice that? It says, the wife's body does not belong to her alone, but also to her husband. And in the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone, but also to his wife. In other words, by the marriage vow, we did something irrevocably dramatic and life-changing for all time. We gave up the exclusive right to ourselves. One plus one equals one in marriage. We are now only partially what we are alone, and the reality of what we are is ultimately only expressed in our two-ness—a two-ness which is, by definition, oneness. Therefore, it is not that the husband is able to dictate to his wife and say, You don't own your body.

I do. Now, let's get dealing with this, nor vice versa. Because the wife has a responsibility for her body under God, but not alone anymore.

She did as long as she was single, but now that she's married, it's changed. As for the man, the self, same thing. Now, the very practical implications of this are many. Let me quote to you somebody else. It's always easier to quote than I can get blamed for the quote. Prior—well, I can get blamed for quoting it, but not for creating it.

This is Prior. He says, at the practical level, this is a very challenging word to all Christian couples. Many reasons are given for withholding what is due to the other—tiredness, resentment, disinterest, boredom, etc. For Corinthian husbands, so wedded to their own rights, this very earthy instruction must have been something of a body blow. And it is something of a body blow to all husbands, whether they live in Corinth or in Cleveland. It is sadly vital to add to this fourth verse, in our currently increasingly perverted culture, that verse 4 gives no basis to violate our marriage partners' walk with Christ in purity and in wholeness on account of the fact that we now own a fifty percent share in their body. Now, in case you don't understand what I mean by that, let me tell you that it is not uncommon for young couples to come to me and say, you know, when we get married, we're going to be married, and I've heard some counselors say that it can be a good idea in your marriage to watch kind of pornographic movies.

They'll help you. Do you think that we should read certain kind of literature? No. A thousand times no.

Why? Because to do that would be to violate Philippians 4.8. Whatsoever things are pure, and whatsoever things are holy, and whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report, you think about those things, Mr. X. And you think about those things, Mrs. X. And when you come together with one another, you continue to think about those things. Marriage does not create some kind of vacuum-like cocoon whereby, quote, anything goes.

Anything does not go. We have no right to violate the parameters that God has established for purity in our lifestyle just because we've got a fifty percent share in the body of somebody that is determined they will live the rest of their lives with us. So if any of us are tempted to use verse 4 as leverage over our spouse to bring them into submission to something that we've decided is right, we'd better be very, very careful. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife, the two has now become one, and as one, under Christ, they must still fulfill the divine mandates for purity in lifestyle.

There are distinct advantages and challenges whether we choose to marry or to remain single. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. As you've listened to Alistair's message today, so have thousands of others in nearly every part of the world. That's possible because of listeners like you, listeners we call Truth Partners, who give a set amount that they choose each month. Their collective giving is what provides Truth for Life with the operating income we need to produce this daily program and make all the online teaching available for free. If you have been reluctant to join our Truth Partner team, let me encourage you, it doesn't take a large financial commitment. You can become a Truth Partner simply by setting aside the amount you might pay for a daily cup of coffee and putting it towards God's word going out through this ministry. Many listeners coming together in small ways is what makes Truth for Life possible. So if Truth for Life has enriched your life, would you give this teaching to others by becoming a Truth Partner today?

You can sign up online at Now one of the ways we say thank you to our Truth Partners is by inviting you to request two monthly books we make available. Today we're recommending Alistair's book titled Lasting Love, How to Avoid Marital Failure. Whether you're thinking about getting married or you've been married for decades, this book will give you a great deal of wisdom to unpack. I'm Bob Lapine. Have you ever heard the term married singles? Join us tomorrow to find out why that idea is an unbiblical practice and how you can avoid it in your marriage. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-08 01:36:54 / 2023-04-08 01:45:56 / 9

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