Last Thoughts on Marriage: Marriage In Troubled Times

Last Thoughts: Marriage In Troubled Times

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 7:25-30

25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. 27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; 31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

1st Corinthians 7:31-40

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

Introduction: What is Paul saying about Marriage, here?

We always want to compare scripture with scripture; We saw earlier that God ordained marriage in Genesis 2:24. God blesses it still today, (Hebrews 13:4. ) We also see that it is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church, in Ephesians 5:31, 32. In fact, in verse two of this same chapter, Paul said “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have  his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” Paul already gave full approval!

So, then, why does it seem that Paul now suggests that “believers are better off to stay single?” Is that even the point of the context?

Notice that, in verse 26, Paul prefaces the entire following passage with the phrase, “…this is good for the present distress…” (WHAT “present distress?” What does he mean?)

Temporary Distress Can Temporarily Change our Priorities.

When all is well in a transoceanic flight, the passengers may care about which in-flight meal they are to receive. They may be slightly concerned with what in-flight video is offered. But if an engine seems to be failing, no one cares about the “comfort” issues for the moment! They are only concerned with survival. For the immediate future, their priorities have changed!

In Matthew 24:19 Jesus said that a time will come , during the great tribulation, when to be pregnant or to be a nursing mother will be a very dangerous thing. The “present distress” of that time will be the trauma of the Great Tribulation.

The “present distress” in Corinth (at that time) was that the Temple of Aphrodite was the center of their civilization. It was on the highest peak of the city, and it dominated the skyline from any part of the city. At that time, (according to Encyclopedia Britannica,) it boasted a staff of 10,000 temple prostitutes, both male and female. It attracted people from all over . It was almost certainly a “trading house” for every kind of disease, as well as the gross immorality involved.

How Did This Become Such a Problem?

There was a very narrow, low isthmus at Corinth, between the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. They used teams of Oxen to hauil ships out on log rollers. It was cheaper and safer to drag ships across the isthmus than to sail around the coast. So, most trading ships stopped there, just for economy and safety in their travels.

And, naturally, their crews often took a port-liberty while the ship was being transported across the neck of land. Sailors from all over the known world came up from the port area, walking through the city to approach the Temple of Aphrodite and everything it entailed. Whatever diseases they brought with them were also spread there in Corinth, to be passed along to anyone else who practiced this sin.

This was the depraved society into which the fledgling church at Corinth had been born. There, in the midst of them, was the biggest “house of ill repute” in history, and it enjoyed the full approval of everyone except these born-again children of God.

They had become outcasts within their own society, but Paul did NOT tell them to “pack up and leave town:” Paul told them to live holy lives, separated from the wickedness of the world.

So, then, within the context of that situation, we address the continued question about marriage.

Under What Circumstances Might Marriage Be a “Bad Idea?”

Paul suggests that under the circumstances the Corinthian believers were enduring, marriage might be a questionable option. In a culture so soaked in immorality and (probably) sexually transmitted diseases, how likely are you to find a “safe” marriage prospect? And how likely is your spouse to share your desire to live for the Lord?

Paul has already shown that, in general, marriage is a good idea, because it provides a moral, legal, and safe outlet for normal, God-given human desires. And in other places, as we said earlier, he confirms that marriage was God’s plan before sin entered the world. It was and is a holy gift from a Holy God.

But, he now says that because of the corruption of the human race, we need to think carefully before we plunge into marriage. He hastens to tell us that, regardless of the “present distress” it is not a sin to marry. He warns, though, that it will not be an easy life: There will be heartaches and hazards, along the way.

In What Way Does Marriage Change Our Walk with God?

In my case, marriage has absolutely enhanced my walk with God. My wife is my very best friend and companion and my very best help in all things, including my spiritual life.

However, I remember that when we were first married, in August of 1981, there was a sharp economic downturn, nationwide, and I lost my job, along with millions of others. Had I been single, “footloose, and fancy-free,” as they used to say, I could have drifted across the country looking for work, and probably I would have suffered little stress. I would have said, “The Lord is faithful! He will provide!” (And it was true!)

However, as a new husband, with a lovely young wife expecting our first child, I failed to think “The Lord is Faithful! He will supply!” I felt that it was my responsibility to care for my wife and child and to earn the money for their upkeep. And I was failing to trust the Lord.

I was not “cheerfully waiting on the Lord, while actively seeking work.” I was actively seeking work, and obsessing over where I could earn money for our groceries and housing. My first waking thought. every morning, and my last waking thought, every night, was “What can I do to earn some money?!”

My Focus Had Changed!

I was not resting in Christ at all! Now, was that Ann’s fault? Of course, not! I had allowed my focus to become redirected to my own strength instead of God’s supply. That was my fault, no one else’s! But the context was that of a newlywed couple in a harsh economy. I was distracted by the rigors of unemployment and my unrelenting responsibility.

Keep in mind that God has assigned that responsibility! He does hold me accountable for how I care for my family! But He also says, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” He says, “Be anxious for nothing, but, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

And I was totally missing the mark by ignoring those promises. I had no peace because I was not willing to trust God for the needs of my family. I chose to think that my responsibility somehow negated God’s promises.

Don’t Allow Marriage Or The World To Alter Your Relationship With Christ

Verses 29-31 tell us that married or unmarried, in joy or tragedy, in business or in pleasure of any kind, we are not to allow circumstances or relationships to interfere with our walk with God. This is one reason he later says to not be “unequally yoked” together with unbelievers.

But verses 32-35 tell us that the whole issue is about being distracted and weighed down by our cares. Paul says God desires that we be able to avoid unnecessary distractions.

He admits that there may come a time when, despite the circumstances, marriage is a wise choice, to avoid other issues; A man may begin to behave inappropriately toward a young woman to whom he is attracted. That may be a “red flag” that he probably should marry her, rather than continuing to court disaster.

What About a Widow?

Paul says a widow is “freed” from her husband. He says she is free to remarry, provided the new man is also a believer. But Paul concludes that his personal opinion is that she will be happier in the long run if she can learn to live cheerfully without a husband.

Why? Because she has been “set free” from what may or may not have been a profitable relationship, and she may find, given a little time, that she feels happier and freer alone. This is certainly true if the alternative is to marry someone who will not treat her as Christ treats the Church (See Ephesians 5:26.)

So…Is This “Just Paul’s Opinion?” Or Is It God’s Word?

Some teachers insist that passages such as this (along with 1st Corinthians 7:10-12) are “not authoritative.” They teach that “this was just Paul’s opinion.”

I choose to believe when God said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2nd Timothy 3:16, 17) that He meant “ALL!

It is just fine for God to give “Law” in some areas, “Guidance” in other areas, and “Full freedom of choice” in others.

But if there are portions of the scripture that are truly not His Word, then I am in trouble, as it means I will have to either declare myself to be the arbiter of what “is or is not His inspired Word,  or I will have to find someone else who claims to have that wisdom. (I know I do not possess inerrant wisdom. My experience and God’s Word both tell me that other humans are not reliable, either.) Ultimately, I am forced to make a choice: Believe God, or believe someone else!

I choose to believe what God says. It is God’s Word!

He tells us what the issues were in Corinth, and why “sometimes” marriage may not be a safe bet. But sexual sin is always wrong! So, he has given us a set of choices and tells us that, while it is not a sin to marry, a Godly Single Life might be a better plan in some cases. Paul outlined the “Pros and Cons,” but he leaves the choice up to us.

God Leaves Us With Choices, Too!

Throughout the scriptures, God gave commands, some to specific people, some to all believers. But He also taught principles for living: He gave solid, wise counsel by which we can make good choices, and have better lives for having made those good choices. Finally, He gave each person a choice: You can heed His counsel or ignore it.

He offers Salvation to all: Eternal life, based on the simple choice of Believing His Promise or rejecting it. You can either believe Him or not.

To all who have chosen to believe His promise, and who have received His gift of eternal life, He still offers a choice: walk with Him in obedience; or fail to do so. To those who choose to serve Him, He adds reward to their redemption. All those who follow His advice invariably find it to be wise and good.

He has told us the consequences of our bad choices. God warned us from the very beginning that Sin results in death. He allowed Adam to make a choice that affected the entire human race.

Your choices will not be as earthshaking as Adam’s choice was. But your choices will have consequences, for good or evil. And He leaves those choices to you!

Lord Jesus, help us to learn from Your Word: Help us to make Godly choices, so as to honor You with our lives and thus to have Your Blessing.

How should we Live (Part 2)

How should we Live (Part 2)

© C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 3:1-12; Ephesians 5: 21-33; Colossians 3:18-23; 1st Corinthians 13:4-8


In studying through 1st Peter, we happened to read a cross-reference in 2nd Peter 3:11, asking the question, “…what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and Godliness?”

That is the implied question all the way through 1st Peter as well: “How should we then live?” If my position has been established in Christ, by Grace, through faith, so that I now have a perfect and secure standing before God, how should I live in response to that fact?

Part of that answer has already been addressed in previous studies, including the general command that we “Love one another” with the Agape Love, and the command to maintain the God-ordained Unity of the Spirit, and to conduct ourselves in such a way as to be seen “shining as lights in a dark world,” and “holding forth the Word of Truth.”

But in 1st Peter 3:1-12, the Lord becomes quite specific, addressing husband-wife relationships. This has become an uncomfortable topic in our culture, as militant feminism as well as secular humanism have deliberately sought to undermine the gift of marriage, and to destroy the relationships between men and women at large, and husbands and wives in particular. Our marriages are supposed to be a testimony of God’s Grace, too: not a battlefield or a contest of wills. There are other places where God speaks to this issue as well, so, rather than just speak from 1st Peter, we are going to also look at Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-23, and a few others. As we read through all of these passages, I ask that you read the scripture as “looking in a mirror:” As James says, we are to see ourselves (not our spouse) and see what needs changing in our own lives, not that of our spouse. I mean this very seriously: look to God to see a change in your own life, not someone else!

What Does the Scripture say?

1st Peter 3:1-12

1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Ephesians 5:21-33

21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Colossians 3:13-17, 18-23

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

The Real Root of the “Problem”

You see, the verses we have been reading are all addressing the solution to a problem which never should have existed: Humans were created as a team, male and female, with no “built-in conflict:” there was no “War between the sexes,” as it is commonly called today. We read in the Bible Study on Genesis that the woman was not present when the command was given to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: She had not yet been created. So, two things were clear: Adam was the one given the command, and responsibility for the entire race, as he was the head of the race, since ALL subsequent humans, including Eve, came from him. Adam’s failure was the only one which could affect the entire human race.

The woman was selected by the Enemy as the “weak link” because she had not been there to hear the command, and (possibly) because she had received a garbled version of it from her husband. (We don’t know whether she misquoted what she had been told correctly, or correctly quoted what she had been wrongly told.) She was deceived, having been attacked on three fronts: the same three which were used by the same enemy to test the Lord, in the desert, and, the same which he uses against us today:

  • The lust of the eye,
  • The lust of the flesh, and
  • The pride of life.

We see these three areas of temptation clearly spelled out in 1st John 2:15-17. We have all been deceived in each of those areas, ourselves, also, so beware that you do not level any accusations against Eve, or against women in general. Satan finds all of us an easy target, too! It is instructive, however, to take note of how Jesus averted such an attack: He used the Written Word, correctly quoted, and in the appropriate context.

Next, we saw that until the Man ate the fruit, nothing happened:  the woman, being deceived, ate the fruit: her husband was right there with her and evidently said nothing! But when he ate, judgment fell upon the entire human race! At that moment, of course, there were only two individuals, but, as we read further, we find that all their progeny would also be under the same curse.

And, part of that curse involved the relationship between men and women, specifically husbands and wives, but it seems to affect the entire race, with or without marriage. Take note, too, that Marriage was one of the few gifts God managed to give to the human race before sin entered the world. Marriage is absolutely ordained by God, and it has His eternal blessing. We will see a specific reason for that as we study Ephesians 5:32.

One effect of the curse was that the woman would no longer be in a peaceful team-relationship with her husband, but would desire to control him. The passage that says “Your desire shall be toward your husband and he shall rule over you” sums it up: the word “desire” in that passage is translated from the Hebrew word “teshuqah,” which is only used three times in scripture, two of them in Genesis. The other one in Genesis is where God warned Cain that if he did not choose to do right, then sin would crouch at the door, and its desire would be for him, but that he, Cain, must master it. The type of “desire” indicated is the desire to possess and control, not a loving desire, but a desire to dominate.

And, unfortunately, the other half of that “couplet” is that while the woman desires to control the man, he ends up in a position of rulership anyway. Both of these ideas are part of the curse! Neither the “desire to control” nor the “ruling” aspect of the relationship were there before they fell into sin. Sin has distorted and corrupted the marriage relationship, as well as the relationship between men and women as a whole, and, in fact, all human relationships. We cannot hope to teach all that is available on this topic in one sermon, so I will break it into two or more. There are scores of books written on the subject and I do not intend to repeat all that they have to say.

The Result of God’s Solution

So, here we are, 2000 years after The Cross: beginning the 21st Century! And the curse is still in effect…more than six thousand years of misery on Earth because of sin! Peace has never lasted long, because the hearts of humans are still corrupt. God said, in Genesis 8:21, “The imagination of Man’s heart is evil from his youth.” And, Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked!” So, what has God’s solution for sin been the whole time? Remember? Jesus is “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B!” So the Blood of Jesus at the Cross was the cure for the spiritual death we had as our inheritance from Adam. But even with that salvation from death, we have the root of our sin still present, so we bear grudges against one another, and envy one another, and squabble and fight, just as if we had never known the Lord! That is not the result of God’s solution to sin! That is simply the result of our continuing in sin!

The result of God’s solution is that I actually have a new nature now: I do not have to sin! Romans 6 makes it very clear that when I sin, I choose to sin! So, in spite of my sin nature, I am actually free to serve God…provided that I choose to submit myself to His authority and His Love, and that heed His call to walk in His steps. He is perfect, and never makes mistakes. He loves me unconditionally, even though I constantly fail.

So, I ask myself…”Am I free to Love my wife unconditionally, in the same manner as Jesus loves me?” Yes! I happen to be blessed to have a wife who makes it very easy to offer her that unconditional love, but; even if that is not the case, each believer is free to obey God. A woman married to a marvelous man of God, who loves her constantly and provides for her needs in every way finds it very easy to follow his lead in their relationship, because he also listens to her and values her opinion and judgment. But if that were not the case, does God give her the freedom to obey the Lord in subjecting herself to a husband who is not very kind, or loving, and not caring for her needs? The answer is still “Yes!”

The scriptures we are reading use employees and employers as examples, as well: So, I ask, “Can I do good work for a bad boss?” I have certainly done so, for most of my working life: I have only had a handful of really good supervisors, and they were a joy to work for. But a bad manager or supervisor, while they made me long to be free from their tyranny and backstabbing, and politics, etc, did not change the fact that I was free to honor God by doing good work!

The same goes for the marriage relationship: we are free to be blessed by God by faithfully carrying out His will toward our spouse, regardless of the circumstances. Does he promise it will be easy? Absolutely not!

So, as we begin to look at the specifics of God’s plan for marriage, keep at least these two things in mind:

  • Point the “mirror” of God’s Word at yourself,  and,
  • God offers you the power and ability to do His will, as well as the will to do it. (Philippians 2:13) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

The Realities of the Relationship

The reality is that we are all saved sinners, still capable of being “difficult to deal with.” So the Lord has given rules that are to govern relationships between believers and our marriage relationships as well:

  • The Agape love is the overarching “law of Christ.” “Love one another as I have loved you!” We see what that looks like in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. As we read that passage,we see that not a single one of the fifteen words or phrases used to define that love have anything to do with feelings: they are all action words. Every one of them describes actions or behavior patterns, designed to reach to someone else with God’s best for them, without regard to how it affects the person doing the loving.
  1. Patient
  2. Kind,
  3. Not envious,
  4. Not proud,
  5. Not arrogant,
  6. Not behaving in an “unseemly manner”
  7. Not self-centered,
  8. Not easily stirred to anger,
  9. Thinketh no evil (not taking into account a wrong suffered.)
  10. Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth,
  11. Bears all things,
  12. Believes all things,
  13. Hopes all things,
  14. Endures all things
  15. Love never fails.
  • “Mutual submission to needs and demands in the relationship” are part of that Agape Love. (Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”)
    • Then a “hierarchy of submission” begins to unfold. This is not a “chain of command,” as in a military organization: every single believer has full access to the Head, who is Jesus himself. Those under your “authority,” such as it is, can always “go over your head” to God. Never lose sight of the fact that, regardless of how much or how little authority is vested in you among humans, God is still the ultimate authority, and you will be answering to His justice, in the end.
  • “Forbearing One Another in Love” is another part of that “Agape love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
    • Forbearing one another in Love means “putting up with” one another’s failings and foibles, and appreciating them for who they are, being grateful for God’s Grace in one another’s lives. It means not constantly demanding more, and demanding changes in the other person, but accepting them as they are, and loving them unconditionally, as they are, allowing God to work in their life.
  • Marriage is supposed to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church, (Ephesians 5:32) which makes it a profoundly important relationship.

Next week, we will begin looking at the specifics of the marriage relationship and how it is supposed to work.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you change our hearts and teach us to love one another unconditionally, not judging one another, or criticizing one another, but blessing each other through your Love. Make us the men and women of God you have chosen us to be, to bring glory to yourself.