Recently there have been various people tell me they have experienced vertigo. Until a couple years ago I never realized vertigo was something people experienced as a regular physical condition. I had always assumed that vertigo was brought on by some sort of external circumstance – airplane, fair or rollercoaster ride, etc. Essentially, vertigo is a feeling of dizziness. The surroundings feel like they are spinning out of control. Sometimes a person will feel confused and in chaos.
Unfortunately, our relationships and families can feel this same way. Instead of physical vertigo we seem to have relational vertigo. Our families and friendships are not what we desire them to be.
Likewise, this was true of Corinth. Today’s message will further explore family relationships under the moral and relational vertigo of the Corinth culture.
EXAMINE 1Corinthians 7 Cross Centered Family
Cross-centered families pursue peace (1Cor 7:10-17)
The culture of Corinth had an impact on the new Corinthians believers. Their pasts followed them and their present behavior still needed guidance. Paul writes to continue admonishing the believers. He notes that it is not solely his own instruction but the Lord Jesus’ teaching on marriage (Matt 5:31-32; 19:9; Mark 10:9-12). The command is that married persons should not divorce; “what God has joined together, let man not separate”.
Simply put, divorce was never in God’s design for marriage. In fact, God hates divorce. It violates His character and covenant. Divorce hurts both spouses and wounds the offspring (Malachi 2:14-15).
But the reality is that some are divorced today. Unfortunately it happens, and if it does the persons should remain unmarried or a remarriage would be considered as adultery.
However, Paul does provide grounds for divorce if an unbelieving spouse separates (abandonment) and leaves. In this case, the believing spouse is “not enslaved”. It is important to note that divorce is never commanded though is consented in this case.
Jesus provides grounds for divorce on one other exception – “sexual immorality” (adultery).
Therefore biblically, abandonment by unbelieving spouse (1Cor 7:15), adultery (Matt 19:9), and death (1Cor 7:39; Romans 7:2) are the only reasons for dissolving the marriage covenant. Remarriage is permissible only if there were biblical grounds for the divorce; if not then remarriage to another spouse should not be pursued. We must be careful not to allow the modern worldview of divorce on demand to creep into the church. In fact, this seems to be exactly the kind of thinking what Jesus spoke against. [NOTE 1]
- If you are currently contemplating divorce then get help immediately. There is no shame in counseling. If one spouse is set against counseling then the other spouse should get the help they need from a trusted Christian counselor. They should not seek to “change their spouse” but to bring the Changer (Christ) into the marriage in a fuller manner. Prayer, Scripture reading, community with other believers are all means to accomplish bringing Christ at the forefront of your relationship. In doing so, an environment is cultivated for Christ to bring renewal and reconciliation, but still restoration is never easy.
- If you are divorced for an unbiblical reason then know God desires your repentance and provides forgiveness. Your identity does not have to wear the “Scarlet D”. The gospel provides grace for your sin and you can re-learn to walk in the newness of life that Jesus offers.
o But remember, remarriage is not open to you. Jesus is sufficient to satisfy such longings.
o If you are divorced for an unbiblical reason and re-married then know God desires your repentance and provides forgiveness from this too. You should not get another divorce but remain faithful and reflect the gospel in your current state.
- If you are divorced for a biblical reason then know God can restore your relationship, either with previous spouse, or if desired, with a new one in Christian marriage according to God’s plan.
What if you are married to an unbeliever? [NOTE 2]
- Realize that a Christian should not be unequally yoked (cf. 1Cor 7:39; 2Cor 6:14). Dating and marriage is not a mission field. But if you already are, then God has called you to peace, for how do you know whether your spouse will be saved (1Cor 7:16)? In other words, we do not enter marriage to bring someone to salvation but in a mixed marriage we should strive toward the salvation of the unbelieving spouse.
o Remember, marriage is not ultimate, God is. Therefore, be careful of getting married or being married and looking for a spouse to satisfy your emotional, financial and/or spiritual well being. Your spouse will disappoint you (unintentionally & at times intentionally). Your spouse may lose a job or may write you out of their will. Your spouse is imperfect. These are all reminders to place your hope in God alone and grow with your spouse in dependence upon Christ. Taking on the yoke of Christ means the yoke of every other relationship will change.
o Remember, marriage is hard work because it is heart work. God has ordained the marriage relationship to be sanctifying (cf. Ephesians 5:25-33; 1Peter 3:7). Whether you are married to a believer or non-believer, God has called you to reflect His character to your spouse. Being married to a non-believer will likely tempt you all the more to judge, criticize and focus on negativity, with the subconscious and sinful idea that you should get out of this marriage. Don’t listen to these lies. Your disagreements will likely not be justification for divorce. Your unbelieving spouse is not a cross to bear but a companion to whom God has called you to reflect Christ’s love, grace and hope.
- Spouse before church. Be careful of allowing activities – even church activities or ministries to drive a wedge between you and your spouse.
- Spouse after Christ. Communicate about desires, differences and boundaries for your faith. An unbelieving spouse should not attack a believing spouse because of their faith. Sometimes you will have to agree to disagree but careful communication will have to take place for the believer not to compromise or cut out their Lord & Savior… this is true in the marriage relationship, in parenting and every other decision topic.
o Remember, God is sovereign (1Cor 7:14-15). Spiritually mixed marriages are incredibly challenging but God is still in control. Your marriage is “made holy” [set apart]; this does not mean the unbeliever is viewed as “saved” but that God still views your marriage as sacred and set apart to be honoring unto Him.
In all, the church must recognize that blended families come in various shapes and sizes. Often, the church is uncertain how best to minister; sometimes due to ignorance and sometimes due to apathy and neither is excusable. Essentially, single parents, children of divorce or deceased parents are not a ministry project but a people to love like every other person. These relationships will often require more time, increased tension and emotion, greater flexibility and support, yet the church has no greater calling to display the hope and healing of the gospel to broken situations.
Cross-centered families serve with undivided devotion (1Cor 7:25-40)
Paul continues answering Corinthian questions about marriage and family life, writing now to virgins (v.25). Previously he noted writing in sync with Jesus’ public teaching (7:12) but here he writes without any record of Jesus’ teaching; yet with equal faithfulness/trustworthiness and spiritual authority (7:25; 7:40).
It should be noted that in reading Scripture here we should not devalue Paul’s instructions. The words in “red” (Jesus speaking) are equally important, inspired and authoritative as the words in “black” (not Jesus’ speaking).
Paul commands the married and unmarried to serve Jesus with undivided devotion. And he takes special emphasis to commend those who are unmarried – singles. He lists at least three general reasons why singlehood is preferred over marriage.
It is helpful for us today to not view singlehood as second-class. Singles are just as normal and productive to God’s kingdom as those whom are married. When we treat singleness as substandard then we open the door to perversion of God’s standard – pornography, fornication, homosexuality, etc.
Married folk, parents included, should not rush singles to get married if they are not ready. I say this to emphasize compassion and care for singles but this does not mean that the body of Christ cannot counsel and encourage singles toward marriage either [NOTE 3]. Both singleness and marriage are good gifts from the Lord.
Singlehood is preferred because of:
- Worldly Problems (7:25-28): Paul says that in view of worldly “distress” and “troubles” it is best to remain single. Living in a fallen world means you will encounter distresses such as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, etc. In each circumstance, the distress is magnified with the multiple members of one’s family. Likewise, marriage and parenting relationships create challenges (troubles) because of the multiplied responsibility and care required (physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, etc.). Singles can be “spared” this by only being accountable for their own well-being.
- Spiritual Preparation (7:29-31): There will come a time when marriage will no longer exist (Matt 22:30). This world is passing away (cf. James 4:14; 1Peter 1:24) and we must be spiritually ready (2Pet 3:11) and sober minded (1Thess 5:6) for when Jesus returns.
So, in some sense Paul is saying that those who are single are more spiritually ready. The reasons is because they do not have the earthly marriage bond, the emotional attachment (“mourn”/”rejoice”), or the earthly connections (“goods”/”dealings”).
- Relational Preoccupations (7:32-38): Paul notes that spouses care for each others affections and anxieties which divide their focus from the Lord. The wife wants to serve her husband and the husband wants to protect and provide for his wife. Such preoccupation is not necessarily sinful but is a reality to marriage. Yet, singles have the potential for undivided devotion.
Singles have an advantage to serve the Lord with that much more undivided devotion.
- Time: Potential additional time to serve in ministry or on the mission field.
- Talents: Potential talents to use without distraction or division from a spouse.
- Treasure: Potential additional finances to use for advancing the gospel in word and deed.
Marrieds, in caring for your spouse and children, you still have the assignment to serve the Lord with undivided devotion.
- Spouses are to reflect God’s peace and love and grow in grace with one another.
- Spouses are to release each other to serve the Lord in one’s own talent and spiritual giftedness.
- Parents are to release their children as arrows, launching them for God’s use.
IF God exists and the gospel is true then our life and families must be radically different than the culture. God is preparing all of us for His return.
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:36-44)
o Are your relationships pursuing peace?
o Is your marriage a picture of the gospel?
o If you are waiting for a spouse, are you waiting by griping or growing? God desires this season of your life to be used as a time of preparation not protestation.
o Are you using your additional time, talents and treasures for the advance of the gospel or the accumulation of possessions and own priorities?
- All: God wants all of us to unite with Him through His love and forgiveness.
 Some disagree that a person is free to remarry in the case of an unbeliever’s abandonment. However, it would be a curious way for Paul to say the believer is “not enslaved” and mean “not enslaved but bound to remain unmarried”. In each case divorce is biblically permitted then remarriage is assumed. See commentary on 7:15 from Leon Morris NAC and John MacArthur Commentary.
 I found these resources helpful on this topic: http://womenlivingwell.org/2011/02/thriving-in-spiritually-mismatched/ ; http://www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com/
 It should be natural for those who have relationally healthy, enjoyable and spiritually thriving marriage relationships to be passionate in sharing with others to experience the same. Further, there is a social dilemma & dynamic today that many young men need the extra encouragement to grow up from immaturity in relationships and move toward a marriage commitment.