Selecting a Spouse
1 Corinthians 7:8
1 Corinthians Lesson #036
November 10, 2002
“Our Father, as always we come before You this morning thankful that we live in a nation of freedom. Thankful that we live in a nation where there have been those in past generations who have served in the military service, those who have been willing to fight for this country, those who have been willing to give the ultimate sacrifice that the freedoms in this nation might be preserved. This particular time in relationship to Veterans’ Day, we always remember and honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.
Father, we are reminded that the principle in Scripture is clear that freedom is always gained and preserved through military victory, that, ultimately, our freedoms come from You, our freedoms must be grounded in integrity. Integrity can only come from Your Word, and integrity can only be grounded in a culture through the influence of believers who are learning and assimilating Bible doctrine into their souls and applying it on a day-to-day basis.
Now, Father, we gather together this morning to worship You because we recognize that the teaching of Your Word, the learning and study of Your Word is the highest form of worship. There is nothing more important in life than to learn how You think and how You would have us to think that we may learn to think Your thoughts after You, that we may be able to look at life and the details of our own lives and the historical trends of our generation and to be able to understand them within the framework of divine viewpoint.
Father, as we submit ourselves to the teaching of Your Word, we pray that You would help us to understand these things, that we would see how they would apply to our own lives and we would not shrink away from application, that we would not lose courage in the face of the challenge of Your Word, and that we might have the courage and spiritual audacity to apply these things consistently in our own lives.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Tomorrow, as many of you know, is Veterans’ Day, so I want to take a minute to have those of you who have served in the armed forces in one capacity or another to stand that we can honor you because of your service to our nation. For those of us that have not served in the military, it is a great privilege that you have given us because of your willingness to serve in the nation’s armed services and to provide for the continuation of our freedoms. We appreciate that.
We are continuing our study on the institution of marriage, an institution that some might say limits freedom, but it is a divine institution. It is a divine institution that in its consistent application in any nation preserves freedom and provides for the continuation of that nation that honors that divine institution.
There are many ways that a nation can dishonor that institution, and we are seeing some of those on our horizon.
One that continuously comes up, at least in recent years in various political campaigns, is this marriage tax penalty. What many people don’t understand is the way the tax codes are written is that if you are two single people and you both work, then your tax exposure on income tax is less than if you are married.
So you will pay more taxes if you are married than if you are single. That is a penalty on marriage and is a law that at its core is a very subtle assault, but an assault nevertheless, on the divine institution of marriage.
Furthermore, we see pressure from the sodomite community, from those who want to be called homosexuals, which we have studied and is a wrong terminology. Biblical terminology is that they are sodomites, which is also a legal term.
They seek to legitimize same-sex unions and same-sex marriages. Any believer who votes for any political candidate that seeks to validate either one of those two principles is an enemy of freedom in this nation.
Many believers don’t understand these kinds of subtle points simply because they are never clearly explained from pulpits in this nation. People get distracted by the clever subtleties of politicians who want to put emphasis on things like prescription drugs, prescription drug programs for the elderly, civil rights, or even war in Iraq.
These may be important in and of themselves, but at the same time, we are electing politicians who are promoting laws that attack the very core issues that relate to the freedom of a culture. By that I mean, issues and topics that relate to the five divine institutions.
Whenever laws have passed that limit human responsibility and accountability for their own decisions, whenever laws have passed that favor the single rather than being married, whenever laws are passed that put more of a tax burden on families than on those who do not have children, these are subtle attacks on the basic divine institutions that provide stability in a nation. It is important to take into account those kinds of things when you go to the polls and vote.
We are going to continue our study in 1 Corinthians 7 on marriage. We come to 1 Corinthians 7:8 where Paul is addressing the issue of celibacy. This is a problem that has entered into the Corinthian church that is not so much a problem in our culture, but we have various manifestations of it even today.
It was the idea that came out of Greek culture, out of Platonism, out of the view that the body was less significant than the soul. Certain things that were done in the body were not conducive to spirituality or were in fact assaults on spirituality.
They got the idea that sex, in and of itself, was inherently less spiritual, that sexual intimacy in marriage was less spiritual, so it was better to be celibate, which they applied in the context of marriage. It is not addressing celibacy prior to marriage—that is a given. There is no authorization in Scripture for premarital sex or sex outside of marriage or sex between same-sex partners. Sex outside of marriage is forbidden and is a sin. The issue here was sex inside of marriage.
Paul makes the statement in verse 7, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” Paul is expressing his own opinion that it would be better if everyone stay single as he is.
He is not saying that as a command; he is not saying this is an inherently superior position. He is simply looking at it from a pragmatic position. He is saying that if you are single, you have less responsibilities, you have less distractions in your life, and you can therefore spend more time in Christian service. That is all that he is saying. He is not saying that it has some inherently more spiritual value.
In the second part of 1 Corinthians 7:7, he recognizes that there are those who have the ability to remain celibate where sexual temptation is not an issue, not a problem, no sexual pressure for them. They, therefore, can remain single and can continue a life of Christian service where they are completely dedicated to the Lord. There is no recognition that this is a superior position.
In fact, Peter was married. We know that because Jesus healed his mother-in-law in the Gospels, and to have a mother-in-law, you have to be married.
The whole idea of celibacy as it entered into Christianity by the 4th or 5th century came out of the influence of Platonism. Platonism had an extremely negative effect on Christian doctrine in the first 1,500 years of Christianity. It displayed itself in a variety of different ways, one of which was in this idea of celibacy, the idea of celibacy for the priesthood that developed in the Roman Catholic Church.
It also, as we will see in our study on marriage and divorce when we get there, had an impact on the views on marriage and divorce such that the early church had an almost unanimous view against any form of divorce whatsoever, which is still the primary position of the Roman Catholic Church. But that again has a lot of its roots in the fact that their theology was affected and shaped by this human viewpoint, worldly framework that came out of Greek culture and out of neo-Platonism specifically.
Paul emphasizes the fact that there are differences—some can and perhaps should remain single so that they can serve the Lord fully and in a more concentrated manner during their life. But not all can do this, so he will go on to say that they should marry in verse 9.
Verse 8, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.” The unmarried are either those who are divorced or those who are single and have never been married. The widows would refer to both male and female—those who have lost a spouse due to death. He is saying it is better to remain single.
He is not establishing an absolute; he is not saying don’t get remarried. He is going to clearly authorize remarriage when we get down to verses 25–28. There he will make it clear that it is not sinful to remarry; he is simply talking about making decisions between that which is better and that which might be best.
Notice I said “might be best”—it is not an absolute. Sometimes some of the decisions we make in life are not between that which is good and that which is bad or that which is right and that which is wrong, but between that which is good and that which is better (that which allows us to serve the Lord more fully).
He recognizes that there are various reasons to stay single, and his main point here is that the only advantage for serving the Lord in single status is a time factor. It is not that it is inherently better, inherently more spiritual, but that it is simply a matter of time management.
As I noted the last time, whenever you are married, that is going to be a distraction to some degree. Not that that is wrong, but that it is a reality. Most of the disciples were married.
Most believers are expected to be married and to raise a family. In fact, I noted last time in Psalm 127:3–5, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them …” It is important to be married and have children because it is through your children as you properly train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord that you can influence your culture with the divine viewpoint that you inculcate into your children.
When you are married and have a family, it will consume a certain amount of your time.
- There will be time consumed in making the marriage successful.
- There is time involved in the training of children.
- There is time consumed in providing materially for the family. When you have a family, you have to look for employment that will enable you to provide for them, and sometimes that involves working more hours.
Furthermore, it can be a distraction, with all those family responsibilities, and limits the amount of time that you can apply for the Lord’s service—for prayer, for prayer meeting, for being involved in teaching Sunday School, and for being involved in various other ministries. Those should not be excuses, though, for not being involved in those responsibilities; it just means you have to do more. We all have various responsibilities in a local church.
Being involved in a small local church, as we are, means every individual has to assume a greater amount of responsibility. If we took the 50 or 60 of us here and dropped us into a church of 1,000, then we would have the privilege of sitting back and maybe not doing a number of things. We could say there is somebody else who will do it, and with those numbers, somebody else would.
When you have a small congregation of 50 or 60 adults, then you don’t have that luxury to sit back and say, “Somebody else will give; somebody else will teach Sunday School; somebody else will get down there and cut the grass or repair the building.” There is a greater responsibility on each individual to maintain ongoing responsibilities of a local church.
That sometimes makes it frustrating when you are in certain positions, such as Prep School director or taking care of the physical property or trying to take care of the finances. At times you get a little stretched because people don’t always step up and assume the responsibilities that are theirs as part of being a believer-priest and an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Obligation and responsibility are not legalism. Legalism is when you come along and say that somehow you are blessed because you fulfilled those responsibilities. I got in a discussion one time with somebody who thought that when you use the word obligation, which the Apostle Paul uses numerous times, that means some sort of legislation of legalism, but that is an absolutely ignorant notion from somebody who has never given much thought to the Christian life at all.
Grace does not mean that you don’t have responsibilities. Grace means that God’s blessing in your life is not dependent on those responsibilities, but nevertheless, we still have those responsibilities.
There are many of you who need to be thinking seriously about some of the responsibilities around here that need to be taken care of, especially in Prep School. We continuously have needs for Prep School teachers, and one thing that should convict some of you adults that have been around here for a long time is that we now have 2–3 year olds taught by teenagers, and now the 1st grade class is being taught by teenagers.
The teenagers in the church are stepping up to the plate of responsibility in a way that many adults are not. Some of you ought to be thinking about that in terms of your own responsibility. There are responsibilities, and if we are married, that certainly limits things.
Paul clearly recognizes that there are times to stay single as well as times to be married, and I want to cover a few other reasons why you should not get married. This is something that is very important and something parents should drill into their children.
1) First of all, you never get married because of social pressure. Depending on where you are in life, there are different groups, different cultures, different sub-cultures that apply different levels of social pressure. There are some regions of this country where if you are a young lady and 20 years old and not married, you are still thought of as an old maid. There is tremendous pressure—“Why haven’t you gotten married yet? You are 20 years old and should be married and start having children.” Never get married because there is some sort of cultural pressure to do so. You get into some seminaries, Bible colleges, Christian schools where there is a subtle pressure.
There are many churches, for one reason or another, will not look at a man to be a pastor if he is single. That is an absurd notion. That means they wouldn’t even have considered the Apostle Paul. It’s amazing how shallow a lot of Christians are. The Scriptures make it clear that your marital status is not something that is a primary factor in being a pastor. Because there are churches that will not hire a single man and most are even reticent to look at a single man, there is this subtle pressure in Bible colleges and seminaries to get married.
I saw a number of men succumb to that pressure during the time that they were in seminary, and by the time they would have gotten out of seminary, they were divorced simply because they succumbed to that social pressure. Never get married because you think you’ll never get another chance because there are limited options out there, especially in a small town, or this is the best option around so you better grab it while you have the opportunity.
Never get married to solve problems, which is another category of social pressure. Don’t get married to deal with loneliness. This applies ten-fold to those who have gone through a divorce or those who have gone through the loss of a spouse. If you have been married and are re-single, there is a sense that you appreciate the companionship of a spouse in a much greater way than a person who has never been married
Those who have been married at one time and then they find themselves single again often go right out and get married in a rapid fashion simply because they are lonely. They don’t have someone to share their life with. Frequently, they wake up and realize what a mistake they have made. You can be extremely lonely in a marriage and, in fact, more lonely in a bad marriage than you will if you are living alone.
Don’t get married because the other person seems to love you. You meet somebody and go out and they fall in love with you. You think this must be it because they love you so much and are attracted to you.
Don’t get married if you got pregnant. That is another mistake that is often made. Sometimes there are young people who make a mistake and get involved in premarital sex, and the girl ends up pregnant. They think they have to do the honorable thing and get married. What they are going to do is create another problem on top of the problem. They don’t really love each other, they don’t have the maturity, they don’t have the capacity to carry on a marriage with its responsibilities and financial obligations. They create an even worse situation by getting married because the girl ended up pregnant.
Don’t marry to acquire social status or to improve your economic situation in life. This happens more with women than it does with men, but it happens both ways. You see someone who is more affluent, they are in a career that is going to take them somewhere into a position of more power, more prestige, more money. You marry them because it will take you out of the social strata you were born in, and you will use that to climb the social ladder or to have a better economic situation. Don’t marry for money.
Don’t marry someone simply because they are kind to you or because you are grateful to them because of something they have done for you. Don’t marry somebody because they are sympathetic to you.
All of those relate to different kinds of social pressures that are brought to bear on people. It is amazing how subtle these pressures can be. If you are not old enough to really know yourself, you can easily succumb to these pressures without being fully aware of it.
That is one reason I say again and again that you really shouldn’t think about getting married until you are at least 25 years old. I used to say 21, but back in the 80s, I read a study that indicated that the emotional maturity of a 21-year-old was equivalent to the emotional maturity of a 17-year-old 100 years earlier. That continues to change so that the emotional maturity of a 25-year-old today is about the equivalent to the emotional maturity of a 20-year-old. Now that is a general statement and does not apply to every single individual.
There are certainly some adolescents that show more maturity than others, but you don’t want to get married until you are mature enough to handle the responsibilities and to be able to provide for a family and children. Part of what needs to happen before you get married is you need to know yourself fairly well and that only comes with time and maturity.
I encourage people to put it off until after they are 25. Not that that is a magic number, but they need to get past college. Most people change tremendously between the ages of 17 and 30. The closer you get to 30 before you get married, statistics indicate that the more permanent your marriage is probably going to be.
2) The second reason not to get married is financial pressure. Don’t marry someone to solve your debt problem; don’t marry someone because they are going to be a meal ticket. Don’t marry somebody to get you into a bigger house or buy you nice cars; don’t marry somebody simply because they are making a lot of money and you are able to do a lot of things that you were not able to do before (this applies a lot to women, but it can go both ways now).
Sometimes that creates blinders for people in a dating situation, so don’t let economics influence your decision to get married in a positive way. Sometimes you need to let economics influence you in a negative way—you can’t afford it so don’t do it.
3) Don’t marry for immigration pressure. I think that is just about self-explanatory. Those who have come into this country and want to have permanent status shouldn’t get married in order to secure that.
4) Don’t get married simply because of sexual pressure. I’m not contradicting what Paul says in verse 9, where he states “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.” There he is establishing the principle that if in life you can’t live a celibate life without succumbing to the pressure of sexual temptation, then you should get married.
Paul is not saying just go out and find someone to marry so you don’t have to have problems with sexual pressure. You should not marry on a wave of libido. Remember sex isn’t love; it is only one of the many manifestations of love. As you get older, that sex drive will diminish.
5) Don’t get married because of age pressure. “I’m getting too old.” There was a study that came out a few years ago that scared a lot of women that a woman who was single by the age of 40 had a greater chance of winning the lottery than getting married, or something like that. Sometimes people think that when they hit 30 or 35, they need to get married.
6) Don’t marry an unbeliever or someone that isn’t really interested in doctrine. I don’t care how wonderful they are; I don’t care how much you get along; I don’t care how compatible you are. If you marry an unbeliever or a believer who is not really positive to doctrine, then you are opening the door to some tremendous problems down the road.
7) Don’t marry with an attitude that you can get out of it if things don’t work out. Too many people have that attitude—it’s inbred in our culture now. “If it doesn’t work out, we can just get a divorce.”
The next topic is some general principles that you should follow if you are looking for a lifetime partner.
1) Remember that falling in love is not always neat and logical. You can’t pick the time. Some people will sit down and say, “I’ll go to college for four years and graduate school for a couple of years and then I’ll work for a couple of years and then I’ll fall in love and get married.” You can’t plan it that way. Sometimes it sneaks up on you, and that is part of why there is a warning here.
People often get married when their critical judgment is nullified by their emotions. This is why it is crucial to always begin a dating relationship by discussing critical issues in life beginning with your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and Bible doctrine.
When you are 15 or 16 years of old, marriage is the last thing on your mind. But whether you realize it or not, the purpose of dating is courtship. The purpose of dating is to get experience spending time with members of the opposite sex so you can develop some ideas about the kind of person you like, the kind of person you don’t like, the kind of person you are compatible with, the kind of person you are not compatible with.
No matter how distant marriage may be, the ultimate purpose of courtship and dating is to find a spouse. If you don’t realize that and think that dating is just, in and of itself, a fun thing to do, then what is going to happen is you are going to meet some guy or some girl and all of sudden you are going to fall in love. This person is not going to be a believer, not going to be positive to doctrine, and you’ve never discussed the really crucial and important things in life, and now you’ve got a major problem. If you don’t think that is true, then you haven’t lived very much or you have your head buried in the sand.
I have seen that happen time and time again. I was absolutely amazed in my first church with the vast numbers of people in that church whose children had grown up in that church and either married an unbeliever or somebody from some different denomination or somebody who was negative to doctrine. Their lives were absolutely miserable because the pastor never took the time to drill it into the parents that you need to teach your children some discernment in whom they have some sort of dating relationship with.
You can never assume that you are going to go out on a date with a person that is just going to be that one time. You do not know what will happen. Remember, falling in love is not always neat and logical, it doesn’t fit a plan, and you may be blindsided.
There are all kinds of stories about people who go out on a date, and two weeks they get married. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to set some standards and operate within those standards. That is why it is crucial to start with a firm commitment to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and Bible doctrine. Before anything gets very far at all, you need to just clear the board to make sure that the other person is saved and where they are spiritually.
First of all, it is going to eliminate many people because they are in negative volition. Some people say, “I may end up just not ever having a social life because there is nobody out there that is concerned about spiritual things.” Not having a social life isn’t a bad thing. You have to recognize that.
Having a social life with people who are unbelievers and with people who are negative is biblically a bad thing. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “… bad company corrupts good morals.” Too many people think that having a social life is better than not having a social life, and somehow they’ll go out and spend time with these friends, and they won’t influence them. The next thing they know, they have influenced them, and their spiritual life is on the skids.
Furthermore, if you start off as a teenager emphasizing the correct priorities in terms of salvation and the spiritual life, what you will develop is communication skills that are built around the most important issues in life that will need to be there foundationally in a future ministry. So it lays a foundation for future meaningful communication within a marriage related to spiritual priorities. Not just spiritual priorities, but related to some of the more important things in life.
I’m always amazed how people can get married who have completely different views about spiritual things or who have completely different views on political issues. It amazes me sometimes when I meet people, and you have one member in the marriage is a conservative Republican and the other is a liberal Democrat. What do these people talk about without getting into a fight? These are some of the most important issues in life, and they affect everything you deal with in life to some degree or another, so how can you have really profound, soul compatibility if you can’t agree on spiritual things and can’t agree on other fundamental things in life?
In a dating relationship, you need to talk about a lot of things. Talk about each other’s backgrounds, talk about family life, spend time with each other’s families, learn to observe how other people interact with their parents and interact within their families. It is within their family that they learned and saw an example of how to interact in intimate relationships. What they saw and witnessed and learned in their family growing up is what they will imitate when they get married.
You need to observe their family dynamics: watch how their father treats their mother and how the mother treats the father because that is pretty much how that individual is going to treat their spouse when they grow up. You learn many of your ideas about marriage relationships by watching your parents. Sometimes what happens if it is a really bad relationship, then you see the person overreacting and go in the completely opposite direction.
In a courtship situation, you need to spend time in a variety of different situations. You need to observe how the other person handles pressure, how they handle adversity, how they handle prosperity, how do they argue, how do they fight. When I used to do a lot of premarital counseling, I would spend a whole session talking with couples about how they fight. You always have this “We really love each other and never fight.” You’d better not get married until you have a good knock-down-drag-out disagreement so you know how the other person fights. If they fight with an iron skillet, then you are in trouble.
People argue and fight, people vocalize their disagreements in many different ways. Some people just spout and blow, and 10 seconds later it’s past. Some people keep it all in. They are very quiet and very calm, and seeing somebody just vent their emotions very rapidly and move on, they think that as some sort of extreme anger, and they don’t know how to handle that. You have to observe each other in all manner of different environments and situations and relationships.
You need to discuss views on child-rearing. How are you going to rear children, where are your views on discipline in the home, what would demand a spanking and what would not, what views do you have on training and teaching children about basic things like money and sex, what are your views on homework? You get down to these basic, everyday issues, and that’s what shows up when you get a couple in marital collapse. One spouse has one view on how the kids ought to do their homework, and the other one has another view, and they have a different view on discipline in the home.
All these things conspire together, and now their marriage is fragmented and fractured, and they have all kinds of problems because they never talked about it before they got married. I’m amazed at how many people never communicate with each other their core values, their core understanding and philosophy of life and family before they get married.
I have come to realize that the reason they don’t talk about it is because they probably got married before they ever realized they had one. They never thought about it themselves. They are living silly, superficial, immature lives, and somebody comes along and sweeps them off their feet, and they go get married. They never give it a second thought because their whole thinking about life was so shallow and so superficial at that stage that they had no idea what they were doing, and they are going to reap the consequences.
Part of what goes on in any sort of courtship or dating situation should be a tremendous amount of communication. And I don’t mean non-verbal communication in the back seat of a car—I mean verbal communication where you are talking about the core issues in life.
You need to talk about your plans for the future: what do you each of you see for your future, what do you want to do with your life? If you don’t know what you want to do with your future, then you shouldn’t get married. One of the key principles that comes out of an understanding of Genesis 2 is that God brings the woman to Adam in order to be his assistant or helpmate. She is there to help him go wherever it is God wants him to go in life.
Now, men, if you don’t know where God is taking you in life and how you are going to serve the Lord in life, then you are doing a tremendous disservice to a woman to ask her to marry you because her primary responsibility under God is to help you get where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect her to be able to help you?
Most people have some general idea (I’m not talking about specifics) when they’re in their mid-20s about the kind of work they are going to do, the kind of life they are going to lead. Ladies (it works both ways—guys too), if you are going to marry some guy who is going to be a lawyer or a doctor or in some career capacity that is going to have a heavy time commitment, and you’re the kind of person that really wants a lot of companionship in marriage, wants your spouse to be around a lot, wants to be able to spend a lot of time together doing things and they are going to be working 80 hours/week, you are going to have some real problems down the road.
It goes back to those core principles that you have to know yourself, and you have to know the other person and where they are going. Ladies especially need to have some idea of where the man is going in terms of his concept of serving the Lord and his ministry in life, which includes his vocation. If your primary purpose under God is to help him get there, you have to decide whether or not you want to help him get there. You need to have some idea generally where you are going in life.
You have to discuss money. Money is one of the major causes of problems in marriage. You have to discuss how you think money should be spent—disposable income, not the money that is spent necessarily on bills, on the mortgage, on the rent, on utility bills, on groceries. How much should be put into savings, what is your philosophy is saving, what do you think about the future, what is your investment philosophy? You need to talk about ownership of property, talk about saving money for the future. All of this is important.
You need to have a budget. One of the things that I’ve often asked young couples to do is to write up independently of one another a budget for the household. You are going to get married, and the husband and wife are working. What are the financial priorities? Is that an interesting discussion because 90% of the time they never talked about it in courtship.
He is out spending money on whatever his hobbies are, and she is spending money on shoes and clothes or whatever. Not that any of those things are wrong, but he has his ideas, and she has hers. They are going to get six months into that marriage, and they are going to have credit card debit out the wazoo. They are not going to be able to start paying these things, and it will take ten years for them to work their way out of it because they never went into it with any kind of planning.
One of the things I have a lot of fun with sometimes in marriage counseling is to tell the husband and wife not to talk to each other about this assignment and to do it completely independent of one another. I want the woman to write down what she thinks it means for a wife to be submissive to her husband. And I want the man to write down what he thinks it means for a wife to be submissive to the husband. We’ll come back next week and talk about that.
That is a really interesting discussion. Usually the woman’s view of what submission to the husband means doesn’t have anything to do with what he thinks it means. The next week I’ll reverse it and tell the woman to write down at least two pages of what she thinks it means for her husband to love her as Christ loved the church. I want the man to write down what he thinks it means to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
I want two pages on both these assignments because if you write a half a page, you haven’t even begun to scratch the surface and are not thinking very deeply about life. You get people writing down their views on those two issues, you are going to have a lot to talk about for a number of weeks because they will be completely different ideas. What most women hear when they hear it taught that wives should be submissive to their husbands and what the men hear are not the same. The same thing when it comes to husbands loving your wife as Christ loved the church.
It is important to communicate and talk to one another about all of these crucial issues in life. It is great when you are dating and everything is a rosy glow and you’re having a fantastic time together. Life can get pretty messy. What do you do if six months or a year into the marriage, some tragic illness befalls the other person, or they’re in an automobile accident and are paralyzed from the waist down. What do you do? Remember the marriage vows are “in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity.” Most people never hear the negatives; all they ever hear is the positives. When you are young, you think life is going to work out and be great, but life doesn’t always work out that way.
What are you going to do if you have a great six-figure income, and six months after you get married, the husband loses his job and now he doesn’t have any income? You have created a mountain of debt based on a false assumption that he is going to continue to make that kind of money for the next 10 years. After he loses that $100,000 a year job, all he can land is a job making $30,000 a year, and yet you have created a load of debt based on a false assumption. You have to think about those things, and most people when they are young don’t want to think about that.
All of that is under the sub-point of “falling in love is not neat and logical.” You never know where your emotions are going to take you, so from the very beginning, you need to be thinking about the core issues in life and be involved in talking about them so that you can let your intellect control things a little more than your emotions.
2) Important areas of compatibility. These are areas to look for:
A) We live in a culture where the first thing people want to be compatible in is a physical compatibility, but that is the last thing. First of all, there needs to be a spiritual compatibility, both in terms of salvation and the priority of Bible doctrine.
B) There needs to be an economic compatibility where you have similar views on how money is handled, how money is spent, how bills are paid.
C) There needs to be some level of recreational compatibility. What do you like to do in your free time? If the husband gets his free time, and he wants to spend it all day on the golf course, and the wife wants to spend it all day shopping, then when are they ever going to have time together just enjoying one another and having fun? They need to work that out. There are some people who are very comfortable with having a relationship where they don’t have a lot of social contact with the other person. Other people want a lot more. It just depends on the individual personality. If you are a man who enjoys the outdoors, backpacking, hiking, more rugged environment, and your spouse thinks that having a single room instead of a suite at the Ritz-Carlton is roughing it, then you need to stop and think about what you are going to do on your vacations. If one of you likes to go skiing all the time, and the other person just wants to lie on a beach the whole time, then you have to talk about those things.
D) There needs to be mental compatibility. After a while you need to be able to talk to one another, and you need to be able to converse about the things that are going on in the world, so you need to see if there is the intellectual compatibility. Formal education doesn’t have anything to do with it, but sometimes it is a barometer. If you have somebody who is fairly intelligent and has an advanced education and somebody just has a high school degree, then frequently that indicates that one person can talk about a lot of things in a more sophisticated way than the other person, and there will be eventual problems.
E) There needs to be a sin nature compatibility. By this I mean, you need to be able to understand the trends in the other person’s sin nature and be willing to live with and adapt to those trends when they are in carnality. It doesn’t mean that you should have the same trends that the other person has. Sometimes two people get together with the same trends in your sin nature (this happens in just friendship within the same sex, as well as marriage), then what do you do? You egg each other on into carnality. When you are married, you need to recognize that when your spouse gets out of fellowship, they are going to act a certain way. Can you live with that? What happens if they go into extended carnality for months or years? Can you adapt to that level of carnality or not?
3) Never marry somebody with some sort of addiction problem or a personality that is prone to addiction, whether it is alcoholic addiction, drug addiction, gambling addiction, or just addiction to entertainment. There are all kinds of ways that people can develop bad habits and certain addictions, and you need to be able to discern whether they have that kind of a personality. Never marry somebody if they are prone to alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, any of those things because you are just asking for trouble down the road.
4) Men need to be old enough and mature enough where they are ready to assume a leadership role and the responsibilities that go with it. They should be financially stable; they should be ready to assume the financial responsibilities of providing for a family. We all recognize that there are times when you make adjustments because of graduate school or because of other extenuating circumstances in life, but those are exceptions. You never establish principles on the basis of exceptions. You always establish principles on the basis of a universal principle, and then you recognize that now and then there are extenuating circumstances. Those need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The person who is getting married doesn’t usually have the objectivity to do that, so you need to have someone you can rely on that might give you a little insight.
A man should look for a wife who has the proper mental attitude toward spiritual things and toward application of doctrine and for someone who is ready to assume the Biblical responsibilities of a wife. Not the cultural responsibilities of a wife—I’m not talking about being barefoot and pregnant, coming home and cooking every meal for you, acting like your mother. If you marry someone who wants to have a career, you need to evaluate what those career demands are going to be and how that is going to affect things in the home.
I understand that there are some real cultural and generational problems here. If you are a baby boomer or older (that means about 38 years old or older), recent studies indicate you probably know something about cooking. If you are under 38, studies indicate you don’t know anything better than a microwave oven and fast food.
That is another issue that comes into marriage. If you grew up in a home where your parents worked, and you had all kinds of processed foods and things that were already prepared, you have to realize you spend three or four times the money for something somebody else has already prepared and cooked than you do for the raw ingredients where you learn to cook yourself.
I have seen individuals that when they were single because of their job they ate out a lot; they might spend $300–$400 a month eating out. Because of the kinds of foods that they eat and the prepared foods that they buy at the store, they might spend another $300–$400 as a single person in groceries. If you transfer that and learn how to cook, you can cut that overall grocery bill down to probably $200–$300 per month per person.
I don’t know what the cost would be today. When I was in college and had a roommate, we each dropped $50 into the pot each month and went out and bought groceries. He couldn’t cook, so we made a decision. His mother would probably burn Jell-O, and my mother could cook, so I ended up being the cook, and he ended up being the dish washer. I went through three different roommates with that arrangement and ended up being a fairly decent cook. Not everybody does that, but you have to learn to adapt to different situations.
A man needs to look for a woman who understands biblical responsibilities and is ready to assume those biblical responsibilities. Men need also to be at a point of maturity in their own life where they are able to explain and define for themselves what it means to be a leader and an authority in the home, as opposed to being a tyrant and a dictator in the home. They need to have a sound understanding of biblical responsibilities. They also need to know what those terms mean—that is, being a leader and being the authority in the home—to the woman involved.
5) Women should be ready to adapt themselves to the man and to the Lord’s leading in his life. We live in an age when many women are taught and trained to have a career and to be career oriented. It is not outside the boundaries of reason to expect that it will frequently occur that her career goals and his career goals may come in conflict.
If they are living in one location, and she has a great career and he has a great career, and suddenly for her career to advance, she has to take a job in another part of the country. How are you going to handle that? Whenever you put the wife’s career ahead of the man’s, then you are in violation of the plan and will of God.
Remember, the wife was designed to assist the man in God’s plan for his life, not the other way around. When you get into these “Mr. Mom” scenarios, you know first of all they are violating the basic biblical rules for role relationships within the marriage. Women should not marry until they meet someone to whom they are willing to surrender their freedom.
Ladies, when you get married, you are surrendering some of your freedom because now you are to adapt yourself and submit yourself to the leadership and authority of your husband. If you’re single, you need to look at that guy and see if he is exhibiting the kind of character and leadership and responsibility traits that you are willing to give your freedom up for. You need to make sure that that man is not someone who will abuse his leadership role and make sure that he is someone who has a basic understanding of the biblical responsibilities of a husband. It needs to be someone you can respect and whose leadership you can follow.
Women need to be able to define what it means to be a submissive wife and to follow the leadership of the husband and what it means to adapt yourself to your husband. Remember, the husband is not to adapt himself to the wife; the wife is to adapt herself to the husband.
6) Always remember it is better to be single than to be married to the wrong person. It is better to be single than stupid. There is nothing more miserable than being married to the wrong person.
Those are the general guidelines in selecting a lifetime partner.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:8, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.” It is good to remain single, but remember he has a pragmatic reason and that is for the benefit of serving the Lord and putting that priority first. Not a selfish reason. You have some people who say they are not going to get married because if they get married, then they will have to be more loving or give up some of the things they want. They basically stay single because they are arrogant. It is probably good they stay single because they are arrogant and self-absorbed. They need to get rid of the arrogance and self-absorption.
Same thing with some parents. I’ve known some couples who say they are just too selfish to have children. If they were to have children, they would have to give up some of their freedom. It is probably good they didn’t have children, but it would be better if they gave up their arrogance and self-absorption.
That brings us to 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.” There he recognizes that for most believers, they do not have the ability to maintain a celibate lifestyle and to serve the Lord. Of course, marriage is a divine institution, so it is better to marry than to be consumed with sexual lust.
The word for “self-control” is the present middle indicative of EGKRATEUOMAI, which means to have self-mastery or self-control. The present tense is customary, which means they should be customarily self-controlled. This doesn’t mean that the celibate never has any thoughts of sexual temptation, but generally speaking, this isn’t a major problem in their life. They might have had an occasional lapse, and it doesn’t mean they are totally without any sort of sexual inclination, but for them it is not a major problem, and they habitually have control in this particular area.
Remember, generally speaking in terms of marriage, you must have doctrine and you must have some level of maturity when you get married. Too often, one of the reasons that marriages fail and fail as early as they do is when the people got married, they were immature.
That doesn’t mean that for anyone here to get the idea “I got married too soon. I screwed up and made a mistake. Let’s dump the marriage and figure it out.” No, you have to start where you are—God’s grace is sufficient for everything, and it is time to grow up. Remember, in the Old Testament, most people didn’t know each other at all. They learned to adapt and to fall in love with each other without ever having gone through any sort of premarital courtship or dating process. The fact that you married somebody and you might have married too quickly or might have been immature is no excuse for not being able to work through the problems. Under the plan of God and with the application of doctrine, any problem and any failure can be overcome.
That is what we have to deal with in the next section starting in verse 10. Paul is going to deal with the maintenance in marriage and some situations that relate to the breakdown of marriage. We will look at that next time.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to look at Your Word this morning and to understand these basic principles related to marriage. We thank You for the fantastic illustration we have of the kind of love that should characterize marriage through our Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. We are reminded that in marriage it is the kind of love You demonstrated to us in our salvation that is to characterize that marriage union. That can only come as a result of salvation and a result of spiritual growth.
We pray right now that if there is anyone here that has perhaps never put their faith alone in Christ alone, that at this time they have that opportunity. Perhaps you are not sure about your eternal destiny, and right now you have the opportunity to make that both sure and certain. All you need to do is to believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross as a substitute for your sins, and you will have eternal life. This is a new life that can never be taken from you, a new life that you can never lose, and a new life that is a free gift and one that is not conditioned on any behavior on your part. It is not based on your good deeds; it is not based on church attendance, church involvement, denominational affiliation, morality, or any other human factor. It is based solely on the work of Christ on the Cross.
Father, we thank You for the things that we have studied this morning, and we pray that You would challenge us with them. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”