The Importance of Marital Intimacy and Should Christians Aspire to Be Married or Single? #250

Hello everybody and happy Wednesday! Did you know that the Bible Reading Podcast is on Youtube? Yes! We are – just search for my channel: Bible Reading Youtube Channel

I mention this because we have a faithful listener/watcher there – WhereWhatHuh, who leaves some great comments. Allow me to read a couple:

Even if we were to grant, ad argumentum that there are 33,000 or inflate it to 55,000 or 100,000 Christian Denominations… Let’s even call it Millions, just to keep from haggling over numbers… We have one central set of doctrines. Any true Christian of any denomination will acknowledge and agree with the Pre-Pauline doctrine (see 1. Cor. 15:3-8, 25-28) and the apostles’ creed. Differences within Christianity are largely on matters of governance and polity rather than doctrine. For example, the difference between American Baptists (ABC) and its 1990s break-away, the Conservative Baptists (CBC), is the emphasis on missions. ABC places their emphasis primarily upon domestic (North American) missions, whereas the CBC emphasizes Foreign missions (i.e. missions to distant countries).
A side point about Abigail: She gave David a son, Chileab, who is sometimes called Daniel. There was some doubt regarding the timing of the birth, and some claimed that Chileab’s father was Nabal, but Chileab so closely resembled David that he was called “The image of the father” (Chileab). He was the second-born of David’s sons, but he is not seen in the later palace intrigues, and despite his auspicious forebears … the handsome and heroic David, and the beautiful and intelligent Abigail … He is not mentioned in the Bible aside from being noted among the sons of David. He vanishes, and his much younger half-brother Solomon ends up inheriting the throne of David. A bit of a Bible mystery…
Chileab is an interesting guy. We went over the top 4 most beautiful women in the Bible according to old Rabbinic tradition yesterday, today I’ll tell you that same Rabbinic tradition says that Benjamin, Jesse, Amram and Chileab were the only four people in the Bible that died without sinning. This is, of course, balderdash and poppycock, but it is an interesting tidbit. Today, we are going to solve the mystery of what happened to Chileab once and for all. I’ve talked to the only people in the world who know the solution to this puzzle, and they’ve authorized me to release it today, to you. Interestingly enough, those people were higher ups in the Vatican archives, and they also clued me in on the whether or not there is real alien life too, so I can share that answer today also! So – here’s the full story.  (oh hang on, one of my kids needs me…I’ll just edit this out. The answer is 42. Yeah – it’s the answer to life, the universe and pretty much everything. No problem!  Ok, back to the show…what were we talking about? Well, I don’t remember. Oh well, probably wasn’t too important. Today’s Bible readings include 1st Samuel 26, Psalms 42-43, Ezekiel 5 and 1 Corinthians 7.
1st Corinthians 7 is an interesting passage, and we are focusing on it today. Let’s go ahead and read it together and then discuss.
There is SO much here that we can’t focus on everything, but I will say that many husband’s favorite Bible passage is found in this chapter, and it bears repeating for both husbands AND wives:
But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman should have sexual relations with her own husband. A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
I read three important principles in this passage:
#1 Wives and husbands have a beautiful intimate duty that they should both fulfill to each other – each seeking to meet the other’s needs – not seeking to meet their own needs.
#2 Depriving a marriage of intimacy exposes both the husband and the wife to temptation from the enemy – for both partners. I realize that men and women are different and that generally men have a greater appetite than women, at least stereotypically…but I note here that Paul is not saying the men will be only exposed to temptations, but the husbands AND the wives. I also note that Paul doesn’t necessarily spell out the nature of those temptations – they could be sexual or otherwise…the point, however, is that regular, frequent intimacy in marriage is a protection from temptation for BOTH partners.
#3 This one isn’t emphasized enough: In terms of the marriage bed, so to speak, the rights to a husband’s body belong to his wife and the rights to a wife’s body belong to her husband. This is not an invitation for abuse – this is a beautiful application of loving your neighbor as yourself, and also an echo from Ephesians 5:28-29, “In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church” The picture here is of a husband providing and caring for his wife intimately, and vice-versa.
But, we aren’t focusing on marriage today…but on singleness, because right after telling husbands and wives not to deprive each other, Paul says this, “7 I wish that all people were as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one person has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7)  Paul wishes that all people were like him? What does this mean, Paul – you wish people were apostles? From Tarsus? Actually, no – what he means is made clear a few verses later:
I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.
25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I do give an opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is faithful. 26 Because of the present distress, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is.
32 I want you to be without concerns. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But the married man is concerned about the things of the world—how he may please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But the married woman is concerned about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.
38 So, then, he who marries his fiancée does well, but he who does not marry will do better.
Selections from 1 Corinthians 7
So – putting all of the above together, we see that Paul says over and over in this passage that it is BETTER to not get married and to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, because a married man or woman has their interests divided between God and their spouse. Did you know that this was in the Bible?  Let me tell you a story that happened in a lovely church I pastored many moons ago…
You might be thinking – HEY! I’m married and this offends me that you would even imply that I did wrong. Here’s the thing, married friend: I AM MARRIED TOO…and I’m not giving you my opinion, but what God’s Word says. ALSO, and this is important, me being married IS NOT SIN – you being married is NOT SIN. I say this for two reasons.
#1 Paul explicitly says that getting married is not a sin: 
I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.
28 However, if you do get married, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But such people will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
36 If any man thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, if she is getting beyond the usual age for marriage, and he feels he should marry—he can do what he wants. He is not sinning; they can get married.
#2 His guidance might be somewhat specific to the time and focus of his writing, due to vs 26. “Because of the present distress, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” So Paul might be saying his opinion (and remember, he gives an opinion here, NOT a command under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) might just be based on the current situation faced by the Corinthians and the persecution being undergone by the church in general at the time of his writing.
So we have an interesting situation here in terms of marriage: a choice in which neither direction is sin. Paul says to stay single if you can, because that’s better, but if you WANT to get married or you NEED to get married because of self-control issues, then go ahead and get married!  Traditionally, people in the church have looked down on singleness in a variety of ways, but we don’t get that from the Bible. Instead, the Bible gives us a HIGH view of singleness.
Let’s close with some thoughts from John Piper – a married man – about these principles:

So Jesus and Paul and Peter all say: Children are born into God’s family and receive their inheritance not by marriage and procreation but by faith and regeneration. Which means that single people in Christ have zero disadvantage in bearing children for God, and may in some ways have a great advantage. The apostle Paul was single in Christ, and he said of his converts, “Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Paul was a great father, and never married. And let him speak for single women in Christ in 1 Thessalonians 2:7: “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” So it will be said of many single women in Christ: She was a great mother and never married.

A Radical Relational Reordering

Take heed here lest you minimize what I am saying and do not hear how radical it really is. I am not sentimentalizing singleness to make the unmarried feel good. I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the eternal and primary nature of the church. Marriage and family are temporary for this age; the church is forever. I am declaring the radical biblical truth that being in a human family is no sign of eternal blessing, but being in God’s family is means being eternally blessed. Relationships based on family are temporary. Relationships based on union with Christ are eternal. Marriage is a temporary institution, but what it stands for lasts forever. “In the resurrection,” Jesus said, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

And when his own mother and brothers asked to see him, Jesus said, “ ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’ ” (Matthew 12:48–49). Jesus is turning everything around. Yes, he loved his mother and his brothers. But those are all natural and temporary relationships. He did not come into the world focus on that. He came into the world to call out a people for his name from all the families into a new family where single people in Christ are full-fledged family members on a par with all others, bearing fruit for God and becoming mothers and fathers of the eternal kind.

“Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” a woman cried out to Jesus. And he turned and said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27). The mother of God is the obedient Christian—married or single! Take a deep breath and reorder your world.

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,” Jesus said, “who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). Single person, marriage person, do you want children, mothers, brothers, sisters, lands? Renounce the primacy of your natural relationships and follow Jesus into the fellowship of the people of God.

John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014).

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