Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sermon on Marriage by an Unmarried Man. (1 Cor. 7:1-9)

Text from 1 Corinthians 7:1-9:   "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.[a] I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
To the unmarried (widowers) and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."

This is our Text

What kind of a fool would get married?!” This question demonstrates the world’s attitude toward marriage. Marriage is thought by many to be an outdated institution that restricts sexual freedom. On the other end of the spectrum, marriage is thought to be a distraction from an active church life. Celibacy is then touted by some to be the ideal lifestyle for the Christian. But despite the views of men, Holy Scripture declares that God still honors marriage and Christ still identifies Himself as the faithful Bridegroom of His Church. Paul demonstrates this in his command in Ephesians chapter 5, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)
God instituted marriage before the fall into sin. Despite what many believe, marriage is not an invention of man or some ascetic attempt to prevent people from having fun. Marriage was not invented to put a bridle on sinful man to make sure that he behaves himself. Marriage was a gift given by God to two perfect human beings. God said that it was not good for man to be alone, so He gave Eve to Adam. God loved Adam and He wanted Adam to have a helper and a companion. He also wanted Adam and his wife to have children, which again is intended to be a gift to marriage. Yes indeed, marriage is a wonderful gift from God.
God instituted marriage on account of His love for us. After the fall into sin, the effect of sin cursed this once perfect union; nevertheless, God continues to bless it. Because of the desire to disobey God, marriage has suffered. Many do not see the point in it at all. A common refrain among this generation is, “I do not need a piece of paper to show my commitment.” Among those who do marry, many of their marriages are torn asunder by divorce.
The fact is people hate commitment. People opt out of marriage in favor of not-so-binding relationships, where they can satisfy their sexual desires without the “till death do us part” commitment.
God, however, is committed. While His people may befoul the marriage bed, along with breaking every one of His commands, God sent His Son to pay the price for their misconduct. Christ came and suffered the full punishment for all of your and my misdeeds. After perfectly fulfilling the whole law, Jesus clothed His Church with His own righteousness. The stench of her sins was replaced with the fresh fragrance of His holiness. The dirty beggar rags that she wore were replaced with a gorgeous wedding garment of the purest white that no bleach could ever achieve. And yet that is exactly what the blood of Christ Jesus did!
He indeed gave Himself fully, not withholding any of his body, blood, soul, humanity, or divinity. Christ is fully committed.
And to what does Christ liken this remarkable relationship He has with His Church? To marriage! Christ chose His Church for His bride. He literally gave His whole self to her. The Church's body is no longer her own, but she belongs to Christ, her head. Christ continually gives Himself to His Church, so that those within the fold may receive Him through faith.
Admittedly, Paul does write that he wishes all to be unmarried, as he is. Paul wishes this for his readers, because he knows that marriage demands dedication. Because of his freedom from marriage, Paul was able to devote himself wholly to the Church and his mission given to him by Christ. Paul is right that marriage can distract from ones devotion to the Church. However, within marriage, husband and wife can remind each other of the one thing needful. Husband and wife are to forgive each other. They should constantly remind each other where that forgiveness comes from. Marriage is supposed to emulate Christ’s relationship with His Church. When husband and wife fail to imitate this perfect union, which they will, they can remind each other that Christ’s commitment to His bride is unfailing.
As a member of Christ’s Church, the flock of sinners looking to their Savior for forgiveness, you are part of the bride of Christ! Christ purchased you for a great price. As Paul recorded in the chapter prior to this text, “You are not your own!” (1 Cor. 6:19) Indeed you have been united with Christ in one spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells in you! As the two in marriage become one flesh, you have become one with Christ and are in fact a member of Christ’s body. But when you engage in sexual immorality, you sin not only against your own body, but against Christ's body! Sexual immorality works against the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you. Despite what today’s culture claims, it is not your body and you cannot do what you want with it!
This is why Paul does not command that you be unmarried like him, but he acknowledges that each has his own gift of Grace from God. For those whom God did not gift with the ability to live a life without sexual relations, Paul commands that they get married to prevent sexual immorality. Satan takes advantage of the desire of the flesh. He wants you to indulge in your sexual desires and desecrate the temple of the Holy Spirit. God gives sex as a gift to marriage.
But marriage is not simply a loophole to satisfy the sexual desire of man. Christ gave himself selflessly to His Church, so that His Church belongs not to herself, but to Him. Likewise, the husband, therefore, does not own his own body, but it belongs first to Christ and then to His wife. Or is the wife’s body her own, but it belongs first to Christ and then to her husband. Each spouse is required to give him or herself selflessly to the other.
This gift from God is starkly different from the sexual relations of those outside marriage, which are self-serving and offensive to Christ. Christ has indeed blessed the sexual relationship between husband and wife even to be analogous to His relationship with His Church. It is not a perverted act, but a sanctified act. God then also blesses this relationship to bring children into the world to be baptized in His name and brought up as members of His Church.
The mainstream media thought that the Christian world would be rattled by the recently discovered manuscript that claimed that Jesus had a wife. This fraudulent “gospel” was likely written to depict Christ, not as an eternal Savior, but as a human role model, whom we could emulate.
But Christ did, of course, take a bride for Himself, but Christ's bride is a spiritual one. Through His relationship with His spiritual bride, Christ demonstrates to us the perfect marriage. He covered every blemish of His bride and presented her perfect to His and our Heavenly Father. Every single member of the Church, His bride is presented in His righteousness. As the Prophet Isaiah wrote,
“My soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Christ gave himself perfectly to His bride. He did not broadcast her imperfections to the world, but he covered every blemish she had. He did not give Himself to her unwillingly, but willingly, without complaint. His bride is not a distraction to Him, but a wonderful beauty to whom He gladly devotes Himself. Christ sees each of you as a member of the Church, His beautiful bride.
When you are selfish and you distract yourself from your duty to the Church, Christ seeks to cover that corruption with His perfection. When you are hateful toward your spouse and deny the love due him or her, Christ continues His commitment toward you and is ready to forgive you. Even when you practice sexual immorality, Christ does not wish to take His Holy Spirit from you, but that you would repent, so that He can send His Sanctifying Spirit to strengthen you and cleanse you. Your failure to commit, your lack of devotion, and your impurity do not make Christ any less committed, or devoted, or pure. His relationship with His Church is forever. He will never stop giving Himself selflessly to His Church.
God loves marriage. That is why He blesses it. Despite the corruption of this world, God is still with this heavenly estate. Indeed it can be called a heavenly estate, because Christ’s heavenly marriage will last forever. God still blesses marriage even if you corrupt your own. Christ invites you to look at His relationship with His Church to see how your marriage ought to be. He also invites you to remind your spouse of the forgiveness Christ has won for His Church. Although your marriage is not perfect, Christ sanctifies your marriage through His own. He looks at your marriage as perfect and holy just as His relationship with His bride is, because He made your marriage holy. He washed all the impurities in your marriage with His blood, so that there is no blemish. He gives forgiveness to both husband and wife to share with each other.
Whether you are married or not, whether your marriage is blissful or difficult, you are united to your heavenly Bridegroom as a member of the Church, His flawless bride, Along with all the saints washed in Christ’s blood, you can be confident that Christ will remain committed to you, to make you pure and holy, and to give Himself to you fully forever.

Let us Pray:
I pray Thee, dear Lord Jesus, my heart to keep and train
That I thy holy temple from youth to age remain.
Turn Thou my thoughts forever from worldly wisdom’s lore;
If I but learn to know Thee, I shall not want for more. (TLH 655- Thomas Kingo)


James Preus said...

I preached this sermon this morning in the chapel of CLTS. Normally, I would not post a sermon before I preach it, but I wanted to get the blog going.

John said...

Good sermon, James.