READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Joyfully freed in Christ and eagerly anticipating His return will determine how accountably we live for God, whether married or single.
Marriage, in Wesley Methodist Church, is viewed as a strong enduring union reflecting God’s design and purposes, a sacred covenant instituted by God between a man and woman. (Genesis 2:24) It is a lifelong discipleship journey designed to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church, marked by mutual love, respect, fidelity and commitment. https://wesleymc.org/images/articles/Marriage-Charter-WesleyMC-Sep23.pdf
Wesley’s Sacred Marriage Health Check enables married couples to identify areas of strength in their relationship and find resources to grow their marriage in the 5 faith environments of CORDS, the Church’s Discipleship Model. https://wesleymc.org/sacred-marriage-health-check-instructions
Can I leave my unholy marriage? Can I go ahead with wedding plans? The apostle Paul’s reply to the church in Corinth on these questions and the issue of celibacy was to a people cynical with the institution of marriage, to whom sex was a recreation. They who previously led a sexually immoral idolatrous life, were now starting to live anew in Christ. Among these new Christians, Paul also had to address those who practised radical Christian theology – the legalists, hedonists, and ascetics.
Four Guiding Perspectives to Apply in Marriage and Singleness
- Christ’s Return – Recognising that until Christ returns humankind would experience escalating crises, Paul issued the call to “wait for the revealing of our LORD” (1:7) and “Maranatha” (16:22) – Aramaic for “Come, O LORD!”. He declared celibacy was good “in view of the impending crisis” (v26-27), that “those who marry will experience distress in this life” (v28), for “the appointed time has grown short” (v29), and he wanted them to be “free from anxieties”. (v32) However, writing to a different city (Ephesus) at a different time (8 years later), Paul contended that celibacy was not necessarily good forever or for everyone: “In my opinion (a widow) is more blessed if she remains as she is” (v39-40, AD 54), and later: “I counsel younger widows to marry.” (1 Timothy 5:14, AD62). Nonetheless, Paul and other Bible writers warn against complacent faith. Married or single, Christians should hold lightly to the things of this world, but yearn with prime importance, urgency and expectancy, the return of Christ as proclaimed when celebrating the Holy Communion.
- Freedom – Paul affirmed that marriage is good and normal. So as “not to sin…put any restraint… let them marry” (v28,35,36,38) for “…whoever was called in the LORD…was a freed person belonging to the LORD” (v22) to live for Christ. He reasoned that because not everything though lawful edifies or benefits the community, we should not obsess or be “dominated by anything” (6:12,10:23). Neither should we allow our liberty to stumble the weak. (8:9) When we offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice to glorify God who offers us abundant life in Christ, we are free to relate purely with others.
- Responsibility – With every choice comes responsibility whether in marriage, singleness or parenthood. “Whoever does not provide…especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) While singles care for their parents and parents for their children, married couples are additionally responsible to give, submit to, and fulfil each other’s needs. (v3-5) Regardless of their spouse’s faith, Paul reminded all Christians to keep the holy vows of marriage – wanting neither separation nor divorce when relationship issues arise. Staying faithful as God’s channel of grace and Good News in the household may very well save their unbelieving spouses and family members. (v16) But a Christian whose unbelieving partner chooses separation is no longer bound in marriage for “It is to peace that God has called you.” (v15)
- Good Order and Devotion to the LORD – Whether one is “gifted” by God with celibacy (v7), or responsibly married (v9) to overcome Satan’s temptations (v5,6:18), it was “to the benefit” of all Christians that Paul urged: “promote good order and unhindered devotion to the LORD” (v35). We obey God’s commandments in everything (v19) when we remain steadfastly with God as our reward, goal, peaceful refuge and strength – in whatever condition we were called in Christ to fulfil our God-given assignments. (v17,24)
Despite our marital status and different struggles, we each can represent Christ to the world as one faithful body in His church, yielding allegiance to God’s Spirit and Truth.
(Sermon notes by Marjorie Tan)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- In what ways are the four perspectives of Paul applicable/not applicable to our Christian lives today?
- After reading 1Cor7, a new Christian is convinced that the Holy Spirit is ordering him/her to be single. How would you guide this person?