7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 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. 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.
It is difficult to speak on Ministry without discussing the current culture of Self.
Books to read on this subject:
A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
Sources of the Self by Charles Taylor
After Virtue by Alistair MacIntyre
The Triumph of the Therapeutic by Phillip Reiff
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
This is a complex issue that those interested should spend some significant time studying
However, I am going to boil it down to a very simplified, Amuse-Bouche version
We live in an environment unlike any other known.
It is the age of Self.
Charles Taylors calls it “Expressive Individualism”
…there arises in Western societies a generalized culture of “authenticity”, or expressive individualism, in which people are encouraged to find their own way, discover their own fulfillment, “do their own thing”. — Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age
– Do their own thing vs Do the right thing.
This is more (substantially different) than simply Selfishness vs Morality
Selfishness has become morality
Paul prophesied of this general phenomena:
2 Tim 3.3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves
In other words: To “do your own thing” IS to do the right thing
– Not many would actually think of themselves as Selfish
That is conflict between the Christian/Pagan values and those of current Culture
You can apply the following filter to your lived experience
The only true wrong for the Self is to be inauthentic, to not be its Self
In other words:
Repressing your true, authentic self is the source of psychological damage.
Personal fulfillment and completion is the object of human relationships.
If these ideas resonate with you (and they do with all of us) you are Selfish.
What is the problem with loving your own Self?
Mustn’t you first love your Self so that you can love others?
Biblically there are two impediments to the philosophy of loving your Self:
1) Love is an exclusive choice.
To love one thing is to hate all others (in that context)
So loving your Self is tantamount to hating others
It is not a gateway to loving others
Mat 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
Luk 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
We hate our life to love Christ’s life
We hate our self-interest to love another’s best interest
2) Love emanates from capacity for good
That part cannot love itself as it is not ‘self-aware’
As Adam & Eve were not ‘self-aware’ before developing internal conflict
It is the internal conflict that makes us “self-aware”
We are aware of a part of us that is dissimilar to the other part
This is the conflict that Paul discusses in Romans
What this means then, is that when we love our Self:
Our capacity for Good is loving our capacity for Bad
For: The capacity for Bad cannot love that for Good
IOW: We are embracing what the Bible instructs we should crucify
Rom 7.15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Everything in life today is ultimately and unabashedly about Self
Before, people would still pretend that selfishness was for greater good
Now Selfishness is the greater good
All the institutions have been hijacked by the Self and are all about Self
Marriage, Children, Government, Church, Altruism
They all are tools for self-fulfillment, self-affirmation, self-actualization
If any of them don’t contribute to the deification of the Self, they are undone
Therefore the concept of Ministry has become diffused, if not decimated
But notice in our text that self-gratification, self-realization is not given consideration
This text deals with some of the most difficult, trying versions of Marriage, children
And at no point is your happiness, fulfillment, actualization, authenticity the goal
In fact, your unhappiness (eventual, relative, normal) is assumed:
v 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
Marriage is not about your needs
Children, Society, Government, Church …is not about your needs
If these statements rankle you, then this illustrates how ‘Cultural’ we really are
It is difficult to comprehend this because these institutions obviously serve our needs
But they only serve our needs, if everyone else is not seeking to serve their own
We could say: Ministry unreciprocally serves others
And others unreciprocally minister to us.
(How do you know if you minister unreciprocally? If they don’t reciprocate…?)
1Co 10:24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
In juxtaposition of the lust that conceives sin and death: (v.13-15)
James 1.27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Ministry is not only a recognition of a need, it is a response that provides a solution.
Without all three (recognize need, respond, solve) that makes it a ministry.
* It isn’t a ministry to drown with the drowning.
Ministry is about selflessness.
It is about meeting another’s needs, not our own
Marriage IS ministry, and all about ministry.
– To spouse, children, community, ‘others’, & to God.
It was invented as a response and solution to a need.
Gen 2.18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
This is unintuitive in marriage
We all marry four ourselves, to address our own needs. This is natural & normal.
That seems the humble thing to do
Who is so bold to say,
“I married you for your sake. I am the best thing to happen to you?”
That sounds terribly arrogant.
But is it less arrogant to effectively say the opposite?
I married you for my sake, it is all about me!
Actually neither of these is ministry.
Ministry is not about how much I need or how much I can do for you
Ministry is about You – the other.
We marry to minister to each other, to complete each other.
And together to minister to everyone else
Marriage is a perverse (technically) partnership
In a partnership, two join forces to amplify their own self-interest
In marriage, two join forces to multiply the other’s best interest
Marriage creates important opportunities to minister.
1. Ministering to spouse.
2. Ministering to children.
Children are the institution most resilient to takeover by modern Selfishness
Abortion industry’s objection to sonograms and informed consent, etc.
Children have a powerful capacity to awaken the true religion in a person
3. Ministering to the community.
4. Ministering to the ‘others’.
Marriage makes ministry to anyone and everyone else more possible
To same sex, to opposite sex
5. Ministering to God
Not ministering for God.
We only have time to discuss 2 of these opportunities: Spouse & God
1. Marriage: Ministering to your spouse
This is not just that women were made for men because they were lonely
Or that men take care of women because they are weak
– Neither of these are true in their simplistic sense
Although Paul does say that man was not made for the woman, but visa versa
He follows that immediately with:
1 Cor 11.11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
And our text makes it very clear that both are to view marriage as a ministry
They minister to each other physically, sexually, and spiritually
And because it is ministry, it isn’t about their own happiness
It also isn’t about the happiness of the spouse.
As we have said, Paul guarantees them they will have trouble
Marriage is designed to multiply your strengths and divide your weaknesses
For this reason it is liked to a three-fold cord: 2 have the power of 3
Our text also makes it clear that all other ministries depend on this one.
It is a requirement for Pastors, Deacons, Evangelists.
We must focus first on being able ministers to our spouse, then to others.
2. Marriage: Ministering together to God.
Notice, I said to God, not for God.
Phi 2:21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.
Acts 13.2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
While Marriage is a distraction from this ministry, it isn’t an impediment
Marriage is not a requirement to serve God. Quite the opposite.
However, celibacy isn’t a requirement either.
Marriage presents its unique difficulties, but it also affords opportunity
Ideally, a single person can be more committed to God than a married person
But not every actual person has that ‘gift’
v. 7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
– Elisabeth Elliot writes about one of her early dates with Jim Elliot:
“Jim rebuked me as a ‘sister in Christ,’ urged me to be more open, more friendly. Christ could make me freer, if I’d let Him. I was hurt a little. But I was glad to see Jim’s forthrightness, glad I mattered to him, mattered enough for him to speak the truth to me faithfully. Another item on my “checklist”—this was the kind of man I was looking for.” — Elliot, Elisabeth. Passion and Purity
As we have pointed out whole series, marriage is ultimately a reflection
A reflection of Jesus and the Church.
Jesus and the sinner for whom Jesus died
Our objective in marriage is to imitate that relationship, to reflect it on earth
Even if marriage didn’t work best this way, it is still how Christians should behave
But, it does work best this way
Because Marriage isn’t only decreed to reflect Jesus, it was designed to do so
All this probably sounds naive and hopelessly utopian.
What marriage is actually like that?
What marriage doesn’t seen anything for itself, only best interest of the other?
Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus sought no benefit for himself
He came to earth to Minister to you, for your sake, not His
He obtained no benefit from you
This is the offensiveness of the Cross and the offensiveness of the Self
Both are an offense.
The Cross offends our Self & our Self offends the Cross.
Gal 2.20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Frustrate: prevent, thwart, spoil, nullify, reject, refuse, despise
Jesus is inviting you, he is courting your soul
He would have you swallow your pride and receive him Selflessly
Luk 7:23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.