Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you , whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
~1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Notes to the Leader: This study will look at sex, marriage, divorce and singleness. The first thing you should do as a leader is be aware and sensitive to the circumstances of each member of your group.
The verses expressed in this study are not the entire biblical perspective on marriage, divorce, or remaining single. They represent pieces of God’s puzzle for us to better understand His will for each our lives.
Proceed with an open mind and heart.
What establishes the behavior in a congregation or church?
- Each member joins with past experiences, beliefs, motives, and needs. It is each member that forms the behavior of a congregation.
What do you remember about the city of Corinth?
- As a trading crossroads, every nationality and religion passed through the city of commerce.
- There were 12 pagan churches in Corinth when Paul established the first Christian church.
- Most of these churches fostered a self-indulgent permissiveness.
- Prostitution was made part of the worship experience and conducted within the pagan temples.
What would you speculate were some of the problems facing early Christians in the formation of their church (especially in Corinth)?
- Creating an environment for worship
- Submission of members
- and every other type of sinful activity, permitted in pagan worship.
- There was also the tendency to overreact to sin by condoning complete abstinence.
Section One: Sex in the Modern Church
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 6:12-13.
What does this sound like?
- This was a slogan of the times in Corinth. It very well could be the slogan of today. It is “Just Do It,” or “Have It Your Way.”
How were people using this attitude or slogan during these times?
- This was their license to do what ever they wanted to do.
Note: Paul was not condoning this attitude and his was not attacking it.
What was Paul’s position?
- Paul was going beyond what was “legally” permissible to do. Paul asks:
Is the thing I give myself permission to do beneficial?
Will the thing I permit master me? (Greek word is exousiadzo, to control or enslave.)
How might this information help us judge the character of leadership, the right, the wrong of society, and avoid sin?
Two easy questions to ask:
What good is created for mankind, for people?
Is someone’s life driven by desires (whether viewed by society as good or bad) to the point of recklessness?
Re-read 1 Corinthians 6:13 to your group. Paul uses another Greed proverb. They had extended the proverb to say, “Sex for the body and the body for sex.” They were using the argument that sex is a natural act just like eating and, therefore, it was not bad.
How does Paul counter this thinking?
- Both food and the stomach are temporal, they end at death. God did not create the body for sex outside of marriage. He created the body for Himself, an eternal purpose.
Let us assume that none of us are part of any similar sinful group. How is it that we would find ourselves convicted by the relevance of Paul’s words, “the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body?”
- Tolerance of sin in leadership
- The acceptance of lower standards than Christ
- Seduction of our affluence by changing priorities away from Godly causes to worldly concerns and pursuits.
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 6:15-17.
What should the most serious concerns be for people engaged in sexual immorality?
- Unfortunately, the list is typically disease or getting caught. Yet, if we accept the fact that we are in union with Christ, He not only knows but we are disgracing His very presence by our actions.
Read Genesis 2:24 to the group.
What is the significance of this union?
- Two people become one in the eyes of God. This is the miracle, not the self-gratification of the relationship. God intended something special here, beyond the physical pleasure of sex. This is the same union we have with Christ.
- here is no room for illegitimacy anywhere.
Note: Aristotle Quote – “Friendship is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
What are Paul’s two points he is making here?
- The use of the word “flee” is an indication of Paul’s concern over this sin. He is highlighting the danger of it all. Don’t walk away, don’t look back for a second glance, just flee.
- Paul is also making the premise that your body is not your own, nor is it a shell for the soul. It is the sanctuary of God’s Holy Spirit. His point: “Christ died to save your soul and your body.”
Section Two: Married versus Single
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:1-16.
Re-read 1 Corinthians 1:11 to the group. Up to this point, Paul has been responding to issues brought forward from someone within Chloe’s household. Now, as we see in 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul turns to a letter from the church.
Most of the remaining chapters 7-15 are in response to that letter.
It is with confusion that we read this section. Since in the Greek translation, it actually means good to be celibate.
Why should we be confused by Paul’s assertions here?
- Paul had just affirmed God’s design for man and woman to be married (1 Corinthians 6:16)
- While Paul was single when he wrote this, only married men were chosen for membership in the Sanhedrin (of which Paul was probably a member Acts 26:10). Therefore, Paul was probably married at one time. We do not know, however, what would have happened. God did not provide us this part of the story.
- In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul presents a high view that marriage pictures the relationship between God and His people.
- In 1 Timothy 4:2-3, Paul attacked teachers who “forbid marriage” as “hypocritical liars.”
- The statement, therefore, in 1 Corinthians 7:1, appears to be another slogan adopted by some Corinthians who had chosen a kind of super asceticism (self-denial to obtain conformity with the divine). If sex were sinful, they would be right, it would be good for a man not to touch a woman. Some early Christians believed in celibate marriages.
So what is Paul saying about sex?
- Sex is not sinful. Man should have (as his exclusive sexual property) his own wife and each woman should have (as her exclusive sexual property) her own husband. Neither with exclusive authority but shared. There is complete sexual equality in Paul’s statement here. Paul is making this statement against those who in Corinth, have somehow determined that there should be no sex in marriage.
- Paul’s only exception with regard to a normal healthy pattern of marital sexual intimacy is (for a limited time) to set it aside for prayer. Paul even emphasizes “by mutual consent.”
Remember, Paul makes these statements to people in Corinth, a city with a thriving society, accepting of prostitutes. Paul’s alternative, a healthy marriage.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:7 to your group. In order to be a rabbi, the Law required Paul to be married. The normal age for marriage was 18. It may be his wife had died. It is also possible that when he became a Christian, she remained a Jew and separated from him permanently (Philippians 3:8). What we know is that when Paul wrote his letter back to Corinth, he was single and satisfied with the celibate life.
What does Paul say about being single?
- It is a gift. Some can and some cannot
- Only those who can remain single without sin should do so. Others should marry
- It is not a badge of holiness, just a matter of personal giftedness, choice and the will of God.
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:8-16.
What is Paul saying about marriage?
- Marriage is good.
- Single men and women are free to do so and should do so if there desires are strong.
- However, once married, they should not separate from their spouses.
What is Paul saying about divorce?
- During the early formation of the Christian church, there were a lot of divided households. Paul states that in an unequally yoked home, the believer should not initiate the divorce (vv. 12-13).
- The unbelieving spouse and children are set apart for the Lord’s special attention and have spiritual advantages as a result of the relationship with a Christian spouse and parent (v. 14).
- If the unbelieving spouse abandons the believer, the believer is no longer bound to that person (v. 15).
Section Three: Be Careful of What You Ask For
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Paul is saying that when we become a Christian, that will bring changes. However, we are not to rush to change our entire life.
What is Paul’s guiding principle on this question of changing one’s life in response to God?
- Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him (v. 17, 21, 24)
Section Four: Advice from the Apostle
Read 1 Corinthians 7:26 to your group. There are only theories as to what the impending crisis was that Paul was responding to in the letter from Corinth. What is clear is that this crisis was one that impacted married couples and, because of some transitory uncertain nature in this crisis, it affected those who were contemplating marriage.
Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:28-38.
Paul identifies what problems?
- Married couples face special pressures (v.28).
- Singles face unique pressures also (v. 9, 37).
- Getting married is no sin (v. 28).
- Christians live in a world marked by trouble (v. 28).
- The world is temporal (v. 29) and already passing away (v. 31)
- We are in danger of its entrapment (v. 31).
What is Paul’s advice?
- Christians should hold loosely to anything that is part of this world (vv. 29-30).
- We may use the things of this world but must not become engrossed, entrapped, or to overuse them (v. 31).
- Married believers, because of their greater need to use the things of this world, tend to cling to worldly interests (v. 33-34).
- The challenge for Christians is not distraction but to live in undivided loyalty to the Lord (v. 35).
- Marriage is a lifelong commitment; death alone should break it.
Bible Truth Being Taught
Being members of Christ’s Church have practical implications that affect a person’s sex life, marital choices, and personal relationship with the world.
To understand that sexual and marital issues are to be decided in recognition of Christ’s ownership of our bodies as well as our souls.