A Corrupted Institution – 1 Corinthians 7

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man. ”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:23-24

From its very inception, the institution of Marriage was supposed to unite two individuals to serve God as one body. Over the years mankind, especially the forefathers and other leaders have had a hand in corrupting this sacred union. Marriage became a means to bear offspring and not a way for its members to unite in their sole purpose to connect with God. However, Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians on the subject of marriage may seem like a concession rather than the norm.

Paul addresses the earlier queries that the congregation had with regards to sexual immorality. Since sexual immorality was rampant in the church at Corinth, Paul emphasised the importance of keeping sexual relations within the confines of a marriage.

While God intended for Man and Woman to be united and come to Him and have offspring to not only populate the earth but nurture them in the ways of God, we find that neither of the two are being followed. God wants us to put Him above anyone else in our lives. When He saw that man needed a companion, He provided a suitable partner. Whenever the Israelites conquered other nations, He commanded them to populate the land, lest they be overthrown by the enemy. So the institution of Marriage and Family was created for man and not the other way round.

Sex As a Weapon

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.

1 Corinthians 7:5

We are not at war with our partners even though the world around us wants us to be. Brides are trained to use sex to lure their partners into getting their way with their spouse. People resort to extra marital affairs to quench their sexual desires and forget that they have not only corrupted themselves but at least two other people with them.

This world is full of distractions that prevent us from communicating with God. Jesus even said that our own body parts can become a hindrance to serve God. The same can be extended to husbands and wives who are part of the same body, and therefore should not become a hindrance in any way for their other half.

Is Marriage A Concession?

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

1 Corinthians 7:8

From Paul’s point of view, remaining single helped him serve God better but Peter who was married writes about marriage in a different light (1 Peter 3). In the corrupt days of Corinth when people had lost their morale compass, staying away from all unions would make sense. But marriage is not about tolerating another person but uniting with someone who can help you with the purpose of your life as God intended.

Rules of Engagement

For those already married, he (Paul, not the Lord) specifically commanded not to separate from each other and to reconcile rather than divorce. Even if the partner does not know God, divorce is not an option unless initiated by the unbeliever.

Paul is not propagating the idea of marrying an unbeliever but is addressing those people that have been transformed with the word but without impacting their other half. Even though God should be placed first in our lives, it does not give us the right to abandon the relationships we have formed before knowing Him.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.

1 Corinthians 7:14

Can a Believer Sanctify an Unbeliever?

Sanctification is the first step towards building a connection with God. It is not a guarantee of salvation but a prerequisite. An unbeliever cannot be sanctified by someone else’s faith but only by the blood of Jesus. However, when it comes to the union of marriage where both partners constitute of one body, Christ’s blood was shed to sanctify one’s entire body and not just one half.

if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

1 Corinthians 7:15

The above verse has been used controversially to separate couples of different faith. We must remember our commitment and not find loopholes when we are overwhelmed with burden. What Paul is saying over here is again a concession in situations where the unbeliever is not able to tolerate the connection that their spouse has with God. It should not be used as a sanctification process to destroy marriages, as then we are negating the blood of Jesus that sanctifies everyone.

Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

1 Corinthians 7:20

Together we are Free

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.

1 Corinthians 7:23

Even though we do not need to change our situation after accepting Christ, we must not become slaves to it. We cannot keep blaming the situation around us for keeping us away from our Creator. Our situation cannot separate us from God if we don’t allow it. We should use our judgement based on the knowledge of God’s desire for our lives and deal with our situations.

Marriage a Double-Edged Sword

But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

1 Corinthians 7:28

Paul, a lonely sojourner dedicated his life to the proclamation of the gospel to the unreached. For him, any form of human commitment would have only created a detour on his journey for Christ. We also saw that the reason for his dispute with Barnabas was John Mark’s commitment to his family and his wish to take an actual detour on their second missionary journey. Perhaps this is the reason why he writes,

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided.

1 Corinthians 7:32-34

Our present day state of our nuptials is in disarray because we have forgotten the purpose that God had, when He instituted this union. If we go back to the garden, God did not intend to create a distraction for Adam but a support. A union should help serve God’s purpose in our combined lives. If we see the example of Priscilla and Aquila, both supported each other and served God together. Marriage is a double-edged sword and its power lies in its beholder.

In all of the above scenarios where some partners found Christ during their marriages and some found Christ before finding their halves, the one thing that is constant is God’s will in our lives. Let us not push Him out of our lives to satisfy any of our needs.


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