Be Spiritual In Your Relationships   
1 Corinthians 7
By Paul Robison

At chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, something different happens.  In the first six chapters, Paul addresses issues that he had heard about.  He encourages the Corinthians members to be a united church, a surrendered church, a pure church, a spiritual church, and a moral church.  Now notice how chapter seven begins: " “Now concerning the things of which you wrote me: ...” (7:1).  We see that Paul begins to respond to questions that they had written to him in a letter.  That letter was probably delivered to Paul by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus mentioned in 16:17.  The key to discovering what the questions were about is a stylistic formula often used in ancient letters; “Now concerning ...” is how it's translated in the NKJV.  So, we find that these ancient brethren had some questions on marriage (7), on sacrifices to idols (8-10), on worship (11), on spiritual gifts (12-14), on resurrection (15), and on the collection Paul was making for the poor Jewish brethren in Judea (16:1-4).  Jesus once made the statement: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:26).  Jesus wants our relationship with Him to be the supreme one in our lives.  How does this affect our relationships with others?  What if persecution for being a Christian enters the situation?  Look with me at some groups that Paul addresses in chapter 7.  He talks to all those who are married in 1-7, then to those unmarried and widows in 8-9, then to married Christians (10-11), then to Christians in mixed marriages where one is Christian and their spouse is not (12-16), then he diverts for a moment and talks about circumcision and slavery (17-24), then to the unmarried (25-35), then to fathers of brides to be or engaged men (36-38), and then to widows again (39-40).  As Paul addresses each of these groups, he gives them advice and tries to emphasize the spiritual side of their situations.  In fact, this is today's theme: Be spiritual in your relationships.  Paul wants these brethren to display some godly attributes in their relationships.  Let's notice these attributes and think about incorporating them in our own lives.
 
The first two attributes are to have a sense of unselfishness and self-control.  The sense of unselfishness is seen in Paul's advice to the married in 1-7 while self-control is underscored in verses 8-9 addressed to those who are unmarried and to widows.  Let's read verses 3-5 and 9: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  And likewise the husband have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may gie yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  Now drop to verse 9 addressed to the unmarried and widows: “... but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”  Let's notice what a few commentators say: 1) “Marriage is a partnership.  Each spouse cannot act independently of the other.  They must always act together” (Barclay); 2) * Abstention can be allowed only when it is: a) by mutual consent, b) for some good purpose, c) for a brief period” (Shelly); 3) “... he warns them [the unmarried] not to court temptation” (Barclay); 4) “He [Paul] realizes that his capacity for a celibate life isn't for all ( Holladay ).
 
Can we display these attributes in our lives?  Someone said this about a person named Edith: “Edith lived in a little world bounded on the north, south, east, and west by Edith” (Ostenso in Swindoll, p. 174).  That sounds pretty selfish doesn't it?  A football coach made this observation: “Forgetfulness of self, complete absorption in the goal, often makes champions out of bums”(Allen).  Have a sense of unselfishness!  On Oct 31, 1999, a full airplane took off from JFK in New York for Cairo, Egypt.  After the plane was on autopilot, the pilot left the cockpit, and first officer sabotaged the flight.  He disengaged the autopilot, moved the throttle from cruise to idle, and cut the engines, putting the plane into a nosedive.  The pilot reentered the cockpit and tried to regain control physically, but was too late.  The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 217 passengers!  This parallel was made: “That cockpit is like the Christian's inner life, each day we chose to hijack control of our lives—plunging us into sin—or to remain locked in the direction of God's will” (Bennett).  Someone has observed about relationships that they must always be more about giving than about getting (Morris).  Now that takes self-control.  Have a sense of self-control!  Having a sense of unselfishness and of self-control will help you to be spiritual in your relationships.
 
Now let's read 10-11 and 15: “Now to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconiled to her husband.  And a husband is not to divorce his wife."  Now look at verse 15 written to those in mixed marriages: "But it the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.  But God has called us to peace.” Let's notice what a few commentators say about these attributes: 1) “Believers are supposed to live out their marital commitments in love and fidelity.  Marriage between two Christians should be such as to demonstrate in a most practical way to non-Christians the sanctifying power of Christ's presence in their lives” (Shelly); 2) “He did not intend for persons to live in perpetual turmoil, either in, out of, or because of the kingdom” (Holladay).
 
Are devotion and peace attributes in our lives?  Maturity is needed to show devotion to a spouse.  Someone puts it this way: “Involvement with people is always a very delicate thing.  It requires real maturity to become involved and not get all messed up” (Reeve).  The Best Song is another way that the Song of Solomon could be translated.  This romantic song celebrates the devotion of young woman to her betrothed lover; she even gives up Solomon's advances for the shepherd that she loves (8:12-14)!  Devotion to spouses can make marriage one continual worship: “The highest love comes when two people love each other and their love is sanctified by a common love for Christ.  Then they live together and pray together; life and love combine to be one act of worship to God” (Barclay).  With regards to peace, Paul encourages us in Rom. 12:18: “If it is possible, as much as depends upon you, live peaceably with all men.”  It sounds like as hard as you may try, there may be some people that will never allow you to live in peace with them.  They prefer war.  Here's a good poem on peace:
“Lord, keep me still, though stormy waves may blow and my little boat may overflow, or even if in darkness, I must go; Lord, keep me still.
The waves are in Thy hand, the roughest seas subside at Thy command.  Steer Thou my boat in safety to the land, and keep me still, keep me still” (Unknown).
Someone has said: “At times God calms the storm, but at other times, He lets the storm rage,  but calms His child" (Unknown in Rowell).  Through our prayers, we can experience a peace from God that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:6-7).  Have a sense of devotion and peace.  Be spiritual in your relationships!
Let's read verses 20, 24, 29-31: “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called."  Verse 24 states much the same thing: "Brethren, let each one remain with God in the state in which he was called."  Now drop to verse 29: "But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it.  For the form of this world is passing away.”  In the first verses we read, we see that Paul says a person need not change their ethnic or social status when that one becomes a Christian. We can have a sense of contentment with the externals.  Basically, Paul is saying in the second set of verses that we need to keep a temporary outlook since we know that this world is passing away.  We can have a sense of urgency for our eternal home.  Let's see what some commentators say: 1) “Paul lays down one of the first rules of Christianity, “Be a Christian where you are” (Barclay); 2) “Paul's point is that one can serve God in a variety of places, and it isn't necessary to leave one's station in life simply because one is converted” (Morris); 3) “Those who make use of the things [of this world] should overlook the brevity of earthly things and see the importance of what is eternal” (Morris).
 
Do we show this balance in our lives between contentment and urgency?  We might need to follow this advice: “The good life exists when we stop wanting a better one.  This itch for things is a virus draining the soul of contentment. ... Satisfaction comes when we step off the escalator of desire and say: 'This is enough.  What I have will do'” (Dobson).  Hebrews 13:5 states: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'”!  Be content with what you have and realize your greatest gift is a sense of Jesus' presence!  Have a sense of contentment! We also need a sense of urgency, remembering that this world is passing away, and Jesus could come at any moment.  Someone has emphasized life's brevity with this unusual statement: “Life passes like a flash of lightening whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.  While the earth and the sky stand still forever, how swiftly changing time flies across man's face. O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink, tell me, for whom are you still waiting”( Hesse )​?  In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks an interesting question:  “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Have a sense of contentment and urgency!  Be spiritual in your relationships!
 
Let's read verses 35, 38-40: “And this I say for your own profit [taking to those unmarried], not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.”  Now drop down to 38: “So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.  A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.  But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I have the Spirit of God.”  Paul doesn't push marriage because he wants Christians to keep their concentration on serving the Lord.  Paul wants Christian widows to remain unmarried, but if they do marry, their mate should be a Christian.  He wants them to do the proper thing which will bless them.  Let's see what the commentators say: 1) “Paul wants people to be given to the service of God without distraction” (Morris); 2) “The most important human activity and the dearest human relationship must be abandoned if they threatened to interrupt or to slacken that concentration” (Barclay); 3) “Christianity was never meant to abolish normal life. ... It is seldom that a mixed marriage can be successful” (Barclay).
 
Are we showing these attributes?  Someone gave an interesting prayer with regards to concentration: “Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I've no time to be a saint by doing lovely things, or watching with Thee, or dreaming in the dawn light, or storming heaven's gates, make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates” (Barclay).  We need a sense of concentration.  In the movie “Robin Hood,” a young man takes aim at a target, and Robin asks him if he can shoot amid distractions.  He then tickles the boy's ear with the feather of an arrow, and the boy's shot flies high.  Then Robin begins to shoot, and Maid Marian asks Robin if he can shoot amid distractions.  Then as he releases his arrow, she stands beside him and flirtatiously blows into his face.  His arrow misses the target, glances off a tree, and almost hits a bystander!  Distractions come in all types and kinds, and they can cause us also to miss God's mark (Nichols in Rowell)!  A sense of propriety is not being fostered by our media.  A study reported some interesting information.  Television networks run show after show of crime, social and sexual problems, and perversion.  Before a child reaches 18, he has watched over 20,000 hours of television (much more than the hours in schools).  Topics on prostitution, rape, and homosexuality are aired.  Soap operas push premarital sex, abortion, affairs, murder, wiretapping, and embezzlement.  Violence of all kinds and degree are the subject of many 'real life' shows, and heavy watchers grow to no longer be shocked by it.  The report concluded: “It will be difficult for the children when they reach adult life to be decision makers about right and wrong, because they been without guidelines.  They will have no idea what moral concepts are all about” (U.S News & World Report 1975 in Swindoll p. 394).  This study was done in 1975, so we are now reaping the fruits of those in leadership at the present.  There are some crazy decisions made because they have no idea about morality.  Only God's Word can give us a true sense of what's proper.  A sense of concentration and propriety can help you to be spiritual in your relationships!
 
There was a Christian who had retired from teaching, and he was seeking to learn an answer as to how to spend the rest of his life.  He admired a spiritual leader who ran a hospital for the terminally ill.  When he got there, the director of the hospital asked: “What can I do for you?”  He replied: “Please pray for me.”  “What do you want me to pray for?”  “Please, pray that I will have clarity to know how to use my time in the future.”  “No, I will not pray for that.”  “Why is that?” he asked.  The director replied: “You have  made clarity into an idol and need to destroy it.”  The Christian then said, “But you have the clarity in your life that I am seeking.”  The spiritual leader replied: “I have never had clarity, but I have always had trust in God.  So, I will pray that your trust in God will increase.”  Now, here's a relationship in which the spiritual was definitely emphasized.  Don't forget to bring to your relationships these attributes: unselfishness, self-control, devotion, peace, contentment,urgency, concentration, and propriety.  Be spiritual in your relationships!
 
Let's pray: “Father, thank you for our relationships.  May we bring spiritual attributes into our relationships.  Help us to remember that all this world has to offer is temporary.  In Jesus' name, Amen.”
 
“But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented” (Luke 16:25).  Abraham talked to a rich man who ignored a poor man who begged at his gate.  The rich man had failed to be spiritual in his relationships.  This failure led to his torment!  Are you trusting in God?  Are you putting Jesus above your other relationships?  If not, why not repent of your sinful lifestyle, confess Jesus as Lord, and give Him the priority above all others as you are buried in baptism in his name?  Are you remembering that no person is an island, but we are all connected?  Are you being spiritual in your relationships​?  If you'd like to improve, let this assembly of Christians pray that God will help you!  The rich man discovered too late his failure.  Don't make that same mistake!