July 16, 2017 INTRODUCTION – As we have been walking together through the pages of the apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, we have noted several times that the social context into which this church was planted was one of extreme sexual immorality, and thus significant relational damage. Sexual immorality always results in emotional and relational damage to all involved – whether in first century Corinth or in 21st Century Central Coast of CA communities.
Josh dealt with this when he preached on chapter 5. Elizabeth dealt with it last week in chapter six. And we are going to deal with it again today in chapter 7.
The good news of the kingdom of God – this wonderful supernatural realm that the risen Christ rules and that we all have begun to operate in and experience – is that there is a far superior way of living life and handling our sexual passions and needs, and walking out the marriage covenant with our spouse than that which the world system offers.
The not so good news is all of us who have grown up in America have been to some degree negatively and harmfully impacted by both the sexual sickness and perversion of our culture, and the sexual sickness and depravity that comes with our sin nature.
Thankfully Christ’s kingdom has solid solutions for these very real problems. So I’d like for you to turn in your Bibles to I Corinthians chapter 7, and we are going to read the first five verses together. Father please open our eyes and ears to the beauty and wisdom of Your will and way in these matters. (read 7:1-5)
Vs. 1 – “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” This chapter begins with Paul’s reference to the letter some of the folk in the church in Corinth had written to him – in which they asked him a number of questions. Obviously this question referenced in vs. 1, though we do not have a record of the question, has to do with sexual activity between a man and a woman – perhaps specifically in the marriage relationship.
Paul’s answer begins by stating that an unmarried man should not be having any kind of sexual contact with a woman who is not his wife. Most scholars agree “touch” is a euphemism for sexual activity. Paul might even be saying that in his mind it is a preferred state for the duration of one’s life (because he does say this later), but I’ll leave that for Joshua to explain next week.
Vs. 2 – “But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.” Because of the reality of sexual immorality that ran rampant in the days of the writing of this letter (vs. 2), Paul informed them that God has provided a safe haven from that destructive lifestyle – in the form of the marriage relationship between one man and one woman for life.
Vs. 3 – “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” In that marriage relationship, (vs. 3), the husband and wife have sexual responsibilities and privileges to and for one another.
Vs. 4 – “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Now look at vs. 4. Here’s what he is saying: Once you establish or start a covenant marriage relationship with your husband or your wife – – your bodies belong to each other – – that is – – you no longer can live as an independent single person. You no longer have the right to go where you want, and do what you like as you did when you were single. Our spouse’s sexual needs should always be a high priority in our minds and in our actions. Our spouse’s sexual needs and our sexual needs as a couple always trump my individual desires or rights.
Now please note this is mutual. And please note that this is not about being a robot or being without a voice or consent. Love and respect and honor is what makes this mutual submission to one another a beautiful thing. It was never meant to function without that or to invite abuse.
Before I go on to verse 5 it is crucial that we understand what Paul means by “body” here and in the latter half of ch. 6. The greek word “Soma” that we translate the English word “body” from does not speak merely to our physical shell or our physical body parts, but rather it speaks and refers to our whole person. Our physical body cannot be separated from our emotions and will and heart and mind and soul. This word encompasses it all. So when Paul says we married spouses have authority over each other’s bodies, it means more than just having sex. It means God has called us to a oneness in our physical body, mind, soul and spirit that absolutely demands independence in any way shape or form must go. I do not have a right as Anne’s husband to have little compartments of my life that she is on the outside of and vice versa.
The Lord of my life and the Lord over the covenant marriage He graciously led me into with Anne has been revealing to me of late areas where I have not been one with my wife. One over-reaching area has been that of emotional oneness. For instance, I have a very large clan and I’m pretty close to my two brothers – Danny and Billy, and my two first cousins Jennifer and Melissa (and to their spouses). All of us have been drawn into an intense drama over the last month of seeing my very healthy and active mother out of nowhere thrown into the hospital, where she stayed for four weeks and then this last week in a rehab/transitions kind of place. At the same time we had to call hospice and care givers into my parents’ home to care for my ever weakening father who at times says he wants to die. There have been some very sad moments during this period, and when my tears started flowing – I wanted to be alone. But the Holy Spirit through my wife helped me see this was an area where I have not fully left and cleaved with her, and an area where I have held some degree of independence from her. Why should I cry alone when I have been joined together and made one with my wife?
Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior – and the Creator of the marriage relationship has called we married couples into ever increasing levels and depths of oneness – a calling He is determined to help us fulfill. When Jesus in a discussion of marriage and divorce in Matthew 19 quotes Gen. 2:24 as the foundational principle of marriage, and when Paul in the longest teaching on marriage in the Bible in Ephesians 5 quotes Gen. 2:24 as the foundational principle of marriage – – we need to know that He has called us to oneness – – the very same oneness that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have walked in for all eternity. Gen. 2:24 by the way states, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother (with whom by the way a child was meant to share their whole life with – emotionally, physically, mentally, relationally, all the years they lived under their parent’s roof), and be joined (made one) to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” They shall become one in every way – no independent exceptions. (by the way – if you want to read my latest blog about my being “Oneness Challenged” the address or link for my website is on the front page of your bulletin. I just posted it this morning, though I wrote it a week or more ago). Allow me to read the first few paragraphs:
So I’ve discovered again of late how “oneness challenged” I am in the flesh…..Jesus once in the context of a discussion about divorce reminded His hearers of what God’s original intention was regarding marriage. Quoting Moses in Gen. 2:24, Jesus “answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
One flesh speaks of sexual, emotional, spiritual, and relational oneness. Two very diverse people of opposite genders laying down their rights, their self focus, their independence, and pursuing together oneness, harmony and unity in every area of life.
One of the first times I discovered I had some lessons to learn about pursuing oneness with my wife was actually at our wedding reception. We had a fairly large wedding, and most of these folk came to our wedding reception/dinner afterwards. I guess I felt the obligation to interact with them all, and so at some point fairly late in the evening, Anne walked up to me with nothing resembling a smile on her face, and said something to the effect of, “I am leaving, you can come if you want!” After a year long engagement, I knew what that look meant and was soon at her side. Sadly though it took that look for me to realize I had a wife to bond with now.
Let’s go on to vs. 5 –“Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” Vs. 5 – The only reason you should ever deprive one another from enjoying the sexual relationship and pleasures God designed you for as married couples is if you both sense the need to set aside a short time (perhaps a day or two) to pray and seek God in response to some great and unusual need or crisis. Then as soon as that is over you are to come together sexually again so that you do not open a wide door for Satan to tempt one of you to look elsewhere.
Now obviously there might be other circumstances from time to time like sickness that cause you to abstain from sex; but the point is – be very careful about intentionally depriving one another because that can and will give Satan an open door into your lives, and you do not want him anywhere near your home and your relationship and your hearts. God only has your good in mind. Satan only has your destruction in mind. And he has successfully destroyed many a marriage through one or more spouse’s independence and selfishness.
Lest any of us think the sole responsibility for keeping our spouse from giving into sexual temptation is on our shoulders, we need to look backwards for a moment.
Paul very wisely – before he broached this subject in chapter 7 – in the latter half of chapter six stated what our primary defense is – – and that is an ever growing intimacy and oneness with Christ Himself. Every believer has the privilege and responsibility to dig a deep well of intimacy and oneness with Christ that not only protects us from all matters of sexual immorality, but also meets our deepest needs for identity and security and happiness and well being.
Let’s read the passage and then I’ll just try to summarize its main points. (read 6:12-20)
All 9 of these verses have the dual purpose of helping us see first what an amazing relationship and standing we have with and in Christ; and then second therefore, how utterly unthinkable it is that we would engage in any kind of sexual activity with anyone other than the spouse God has graciously given us.
Vs. 12 – “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1. From vs. 12 – One of the things the Holy Spirit helps us to see as we grow in our relationship with Christ is the holes and lies in the thinking of the world about illicit or immoral sexual practices. What the world fails to tell us about the sexually immoral practices that so many in our society are engaged in – as to its destructive consequences – – the Holy Spirit will expose and reveal and debunk – and in time He will radically change our thinking and our desires and our pursuits.
2. Also from vs. 12 – Paul was a man just like us who at one time was in awful bondage to hate and rage and no doubt ungodly attitudes towards women; and Christ brought him to a place where he was not mastered or controlled by anything but Jesus. Jesus Christ broke every chain around Paul’s neck and there were many and those chains were thick. Jesus fully intends and is fully able to bring you to that place as well. The only reason Paul spoke of his freedom from any kind of bondage is because he wants us to know we are destined to walk in that same freedom in Christ.
Vs. 13 – “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” 3. From vs. 13 – Our bodies are uniquely designed for the Lord’s purposes and pleasure and He is very much into the care and proper use of our bodies. Jesus will make this more and more clear to us as we grow in Him. It is huge that the risen all powerful Christ is for our bodies! He designed our body in all its intricasies, and He is very jealous to see it used as it was designed. This is just one of His many commitments to us as His sheep. (“My body, my whole person is for the Lord, and the Lord of Lords and King of Kings is for my body!”)
Vs. 14 – “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” 4. From vs. 14 – Because sex affects all of the above; because it is not merely and solely a physical act; and because God is going to raise us up when He returns just like He raised Jesus, and give us new bodies – – the care and emotional, physical and spiritual health and wholeness of our bodies and persons is very important to God. We are eternal beings and as Christ reveals this to us more and more we will learn to not just live for the moment.
Vs. 15-17 – “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The Two Shall Become One Flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” 5. Finally from vs. 15-17 – – When we are born again our whole person – mind, body, soul and spirit is supernaturally joined to the risen Jesus Christ. We are in Christ; and He is in us. Every day as we grow in our relationship with Him, we begin to think like He thinks and feel like He feels. He literally increasingly lives His life and carries out His work through our whole person. This is an incredible supernatural union that early in our Christian life is just a doctrine; but in time will become our experience, and an ever greater motivation to flee from all forms of sexual immorality and sin, and walk in the holiness He has called us to. Vs. 15-17
You see these instructions about sex and the marriage relationship and all the other ones in the New Testament are written to believers who have come into an eternal daily living relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ and through what He did for us on the cross. Apart from that relationship they seem like heavy burdens. With and through that relationship, they breathe life and health and wholeness into our personal lives and into our marriage relationships.
Jesus didn’t just spill His blood on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. He also allowed sinful men to nail Him to the cross so that the power of sin and the effects of sin in our lives can be continually washed away by His precious blood.
One of the reasons we are inviting you to the Lord’s table every week this month is because we believe the Lord wants each of us to know He is up for the task with whatever challenges we are all facing in these matters. And that the more we come to Him, and to His table – the more we are going to experience His cleansing and healing and inner transformation.
Jesus Christ has bought you with a great price so that you can become united and one with Him in every way – every aspect of life.
Whatever you feel like you don’t and can’t bring to the table in terms of His high call to oneness with your spouse; He provides through His blood and through ever growing intimacy with Him.
Prayer for the congregation for healing and cleansing and revelation and repentance
Communion – Hebrews 10:19-23