Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 10
1 Corinthians chapter 7, beginning at verse 8. We are dead smack in the middle of the series of messages of living a healthy life in a sick world. We're seeing how much of the Corinthian culture and the Corinthian church is mirroring our 21st-century culture and church, but this passage probably has some of the richest, if not the richest, passages regarding marriage singleness, salvation of family members. The bottom line here, and I'll refer to it again and again. I'll conclude with it because that is the very heart of this passage.
The apostle is saying neither being married or being a celibate is superior to the other. Neither is superior to the other, and that is why the apostle here exhorts us that married or singles, he gives a message to everybody, is to learn how to be contented in Christ and how to be contented where Christ has placed us. This is the principle from which all the other principles flow. Look at verses 12 all the way to 14, 12, 13, and 14. The apostle said if the non-believing spouse is happy to live with the believing spouse, then he or she should stay.
Now, why is he saying that? Because he knows from the entire Scripture that God loves families, that God loves to deal with families. And when an unbelieving spouse is willing to live, accept, and respect the non... the believing spouse, therefore God somehow, somewhere, sometime has a blessing for that non-believing spouse, all to be sure, to be sure, listen, I'm always realistic. Sometimes, it takes time for that plan to be fulfilled. It may take a lot longer than you like, it may frustrate you at times, and it may make your life hard at times. It may make you wish that you married a believing spouse sometime, but do not despair.
God has a blessing in store for you and for your non-believing spouse, if he loves you and contented to live with you and stay with you. Verse 14. This is a very important verse. It's a key verse. It is a truly comforting verse in the Scripture. It is comforting for all parents who are tormented about their unbelieving children or an unbelieving spouse. It is a comforting verse. Verse 14 he makes the most amazing statement here. "Otherwise your children are unclean".
What in the world does it mean? Here is the... I'm gonna explain to you. God looks at the family as one unit. Even though they may be divided spiritually, the entire family is graced by God. Even if it's only one believing spouse, even one believing member, God makes covenants with family. And in his sovereign economy, in his sovereign plan, in his sovereign knowledge, when one member of the family is brought to the kingdom of God, brought to the Lord Jesus Christ, somehow, somewhere, sometime God has a blessing in store for the whole family. God blessed Pharaoh because of Joseph.
You remember Abraham interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was bargaining with God because he has lost touch with his selfish, self-centered nephew, Lot, and he is not really know how many believers in Lot's household. So, Abraham approaches his friend, God, and he says, "God, if there are 50 righteous people in Sodom, would you spare the city"? And God said, "Yes". And then, he said, "What about 40, God"? He said, "Yes". "What about 30, God"? He's still bargaining, you know? "What about 20?" because Abraham is not sure really how many in Lot's household who consider to be righteous.
And so, he goes all the way to ten, and he said, "If there are ten, would you spare the city"? And God said, "Yes," but, alas, there were not ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Were not ten. Only Lot, his wife, his daughters, and God was willing to spare that evil, wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah if there were ten righteous people there. The bottom line is this, listen, beloved: God will bless, God will spare the willing non-believing spouse to live with his believing or her believing spouse.
Now, I wanna have a Word for those spouses who are not yet believers. You might be an unbelieving spouse, and you're watching your spouse living a godly life, and she pray for you, or he prays for you. And you are dragging your feet about coming to Christ, and your believing spouse is praying for you. Listen to me. God has a blessing for you, my friend, because of your believing spouse. God has been patient with you because of your believing spouse. God is holding his arms wide open to welcome you because of your believing spouse. Don't put off the very secret of joy in life. The same goes for the non-believing children.
Look at verses 15 and 16. But if the non-believing spouse decide to leave his believing spouse, then the believing spouse should not feel at all guilty about that, none whatsoever. At this point, the believing spouse is no longer under the bond of marriage. The marriage bonds can be broken in two ways: either by death, or when a non-believing spouse decides to leave a believing spouse. Be careful of erroneous teaching. Don't listen to legalistic advice. In fact, don't listen to advice when it comes to the issues of life. I'm gonna come to that in a minute, because both extremes, legalism and license under the guise of grace, both are alien to biblical teaching.
Look at verses 18, 19, and 20. It must be fully understood in the context of this church and of this city, Corinth. Regardless of the advice that people might give you, regardless of advice that friends might give you, and no matter how good those friends are, go to God in prayer. Stay on your knees. Discern the will of God. Stay with the Word of God and let God guide you, not friends, good as they may be. The point is this, listen to me: do not start by listening to people. You start by listening to who? You stay on your knees until you hear who? You open the Word of God, and you read the Word of God when important matters of life.
Now, later on the saints confirm. I believe in the confirmation of the saints. I lived by it. Confirmation of the saints is one thing, but going in and getting people advice before you go to the Lord and seek him with all your heart for your special situation, for your personal life, for your personal walk, it can cause a lot of heartburn. Please hear me out on this one. Friends are great. They're wonderful. Friends can be truly a gift from God, but when it comes to important issues in life, when it comes to the impactful decisions in your life, you need to only listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Good and godly friends can confirm what God has laid on your heart, but you must take responsibility. It is your responsibility, it is my responsibility, and you need to go and be alone with God. You need to silence all the other noises and listen to him alone.
The point of... 1 Corinthians chapter 7, verses 18 to 22 is this: you must be contented where you are. You must be contented where God has placed you. You must be contented where God has called you to be. You must be contented in discerning and following the will of God for you. And what is the will of God for me is not necessarily for you. What's for you is not for him and her. He wants to speak to you. See, God doesn't deal in wholesale. He deals individually with you and you and you and you. He knows you. He put you together as a unique person, and he deals with you uniquely. Can I get an amen?
You see, during the time of the Apostle Paul, there were Jews who were ashamed of being Jews, and they did not want to be identified with the stigma of God's people. They acted, they behaved, and they lived like Gentiles, so much so that some of them went through the most painful surgical procedure to become uncircumcised after their being circumcised as children. That's how much, how much they wanted to be somebody else. By the same token, there were some false teachers, like the Judaizers who were invading churches like they did in Galatia, and they're going and telling Christians, "Oh, you have to be a Jew first before you become a Christian". False.
And here as if the great Apostle Paul out of sheer frustrations from all the stuff that was going on, he's saying, "Stop". Don't allow the external circumstances to dominate your thinking. Don't allow the outside forces to mold your life. Don't allow peer pressure to shape your morality. Don't let the popular culture squeeze you in its mold. Don't let television and movie stars to be your role model. Young people, are you listening? Don't let false teachers who are not preaching God's Word influence your thinking. Don't allow the discontentment of your friends reflected off on you. Don't let someone who is unhappy and malcontented in their marriage to push you into the breaking up of your marriage.
Don't let married people tell single people that they are not fulfilled unless they get married. Be contented where God has placed you, and that is the secret to the blessing. God will bless you. If you are listening to him and obeying him, he will give you fulfillment in life. He will answer your prayers. He will make you succeed and prosper when you're trusting and obeying. And in verse 25 the apostle gives us his personal counsel. Not from the Lord. It's a personal counsel. He said if a single person would go and sit in the office of the Apostle Paul and says, "Apostle of God, counsel me. What do I do"?
I think he will ask you this question, are you contented in your singleness? You say, "Yes". He says, "Great. Let me give you three reasons why you should be where you are, and you don't have to feel pressured by the culture or by anybody else". You see, remember this. This is the 1st century. Always, always, always put the Scripture in its historic context, the original readers to whom the apostle is writing, and then we can apply it to ourselves. Taking a passage and running with it, or a verse or whatever, caused a lot of heresies through the years. Learn from it, grow from it, obey it, but always, always, always ask the question, who were the original readers? What is he writing to them and saying?
And so, Paul here gives three reasons why back then, why back then... I'm gonna repeat that so you understand why. Back then, he's saying singles should be contented to stay singles. Verse 25 to 28, chapter 7. That's the first reason. He said, "Because of the present distress". Now, you have to understand that literally the persecution was heating up so bad that within a matter of few years from the writing of this Epistle, Nero was covering Christians with wax and letting them burn at his garden to light up his garden parties. Believers were sown in animal skin and thrown to wild dogs and to hungry lions to be devoured, and Paul's personal counsel to single people back then, I keep saying, back then is this: because of the persecution, it is difficult enough for one, for the individual, and the pain is severe enough, but multiply that pain when it comes to a spouse and children.
Do you have the gift of celibacy? Cherish it. Value it. Use it wisely. Use your resources wisely. Use your time wisely, but he's saying more than this. Here, he's saying more than this. He's saying that given our human nature, whatever problems you have or whatever problems we are facing, they are multiplied in marriage. Paul was realistic enough to the point that he's saying that while marriage solves some problems, it can create a whole lot more.
Listen, when you put a man and a woman together to become one without the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, and the presence of God in the home, you might as well try to put an octopus in a sock. Think about it. Think about it. Two distinct personalities, two likes and dislikes, two emotions, two characteristics, two temperaments, two set of wills, and you throw children in for good measure, and you have your hands full. Second reason as to why Paul is telling those who are single, if they have the gift of being single, they remain single. He said the shortness of time. The shortness of time.
The focus in these verses, 29 to 34, the focus here is that the world is passing away, is passing away. Although God ordained heterosexual marriage, although God blesses heterosexual marriage, and yet marriage is not eternal. Jesus said in Matthew 22:30, he said in heaven they'll neither be marrying or given in marriage. We're gonna be like the angels, he said. You know, when people say to me, "Oh, that's a marriage made in heaven," I have always, always one response. I've never varied it. I'm not that smart. I've not varied it. "Yes, so is thunder and lightning". But even when there is such a thing as a marriage made in heaven, in heaven there'll be no marriage. Marriage is designed only for this world.
Paul is saying regardless of your marital situation, put God first. Put God at the center of your life. Put God and his will in the rightful place. Why? Because Paul knew that even if a person remains single, that is not a guarantee... I'm gonna repeat it. Even if the person remain single, it's not a guarantee that this person will devote his or her energy and life to Christ. They can be selfish and self-centered and self-focused, and so the issue is whatever you are, whatever state of marital situation you're in, put God first.
And so, here he bunches them together, single and married, and he says because of the shortness of time do not live in sorrow. Do not let sorrow eat you up. Do not let happiness be your ultimate pursuit. Do not let worry consume you. Do not let your possessions possess you. Don't let your physical needs be all of your focus.
Thirdly and finally, he said fathers are not responsible for their children marriage. Now, I need to stop here, because without understanding the context it can really, doesn't make sense. There were many things that within the Corinthian culture, that Paul deals with, is not necessarily something that he teaches with a broad brush to all churches. There are certain cultural things you must understand it within that culture, and therefore you can apply it to yourself. But back then fathers were the final decision makers as to whom their daughters should marry.
Some of the Christian fathers in Corinth specifically felt that in light of this rampant immorality that they ought to dedicate their baby girls to never marry. They vowed to God that they will keep their little babies, baby girls, to grow up to be virgins, but when daughters grew up, they didn't like this idea of daddy making the decision for them when they were babies, and they wanna get married. What happened? Christian fathers felt guilty about the vows that they made to the Lord when their daughters went ahead and got married, and Paul is saying to the fathers they should not in the least feel bad about this.
They should not in the least feel guilty about this. Young daughters are free to marry and make their own decisions as adults, regardless of what you, fathers, did or said on their behalf when they were little. I hope this will clarify this passage for you, and that is why I needed to give you that explanation in context.
As I bring this Word to an end, I want to leave you with this overwhelming sense here, which I started with. I started with, and I concluded with, and I emphasized throughout the message. And, beloved, it is this: learn to be contented wherever you are. Learn to love God and his kingdom wherever he placed you. Learn to put God and his kingdom first and foremost, because when you do that, God will make you to be an overcomer. He's gonna make you victorious. He's gonna bless you out of your mind. You will be blessed in ways that you actually never thought possible.