As missionaries in Russia, Moody alumni Paul and Becky Hedgepeth celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary by inviting eight couples over for a night of fun, fellowship, and witness. They shared how God had been the center and foundation of their marriage and family: “We hoped each couple would go home with a renewed sense of appreciation for each other and that they would be challenged to think about God’s role in their own marriages and lives.”
Having dealt with the negative use of their bodies through sexual immorality, the epistle of 1 Corinthians next moves on to the positive—marriage. That is, sexuality within marriage is one way to “honor God with your bodies” (6:20). Today’s reading is frank and practical in addressing this topic.
Paul advised his readers to stay single for the sake of the kingdom (vv. 7–9). If they did marry, it must be an exclusive, one man-one woman relationship (vv. 1–6). Faithful, heterosexual marriage is the only way to fulfill God’s purposes for sex. In fact, what used to be called “conjugal rights” are a duty for both husband and wife and a way to guard against temptations to sexual immorality. Abstaining from sex must be mutually agreed upon, only for prayer, and only for short periods of time.
For Christian couples, divorce is not generally an option, but if they do separate, the goal should be reconciliation (vv. 10–11). Remarriage is not envisioned for believers while the spouse lives. If a believer is married to a nonbeliever, the Christian should stay in the marriage if the unbelieving spouse is (vv. 12–16). God can work through the believer to bring salvation to the unbelieving spouse, and the believer’s faith has a sanctifying effect and serves as a blessing on the family.
Apply the Word
A good book, retreat, or conference can develop or reinvigorate a marriage relationship. Here are three: The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted and A Couple’s Guide to a Growing Marriage by Gary Chapman, and The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller (with Kathy Keller).