I Corinthians 7:15-40

Dr. Steve Viars December 3, 1991 1 Corinthians 7:15-40

- tonight we're back in our study of I Cor. 7 talking about
  God's principles for marriage, divorce, and remarriage
- you may remember that Paul addressed three different groups
  in these verses

- He's spoken to believer married to believers - and said -
  No divorce, God wants you to stay married
    - we mentioned an exception the Bible recognizes, but the
      overall principle is - no divorce

- Paul also spoke to believers married to unbelievers who
  wanted to stay in the marriage
- God's word to them was - no divorce
    - stay in that marriage and use it as an opportunity for
      evangelism for you spouse and children

- Tonight, we're going to look at God's Word to the third
   group of people and then move further into this chapter
- (starting with Roman III because this is a continuation of
    the notes)

III. God's Word To Believers Married To Unbelievers Who Want
     To Leave

  - read 15-16

    A. Meaning of "pleased to dwell"

      - not a "pleasure to live with"

      - talking about desertion

      - talking about the spouse who's in and out the house
            for weeks at a time

      - talking about the spouse who's no longer interested
           in a monogamous family relationship

- we said a couple of weeks ago that there are three things,
   biblically speaking, that can end a marriage
      1) death
      2) ongoing sexual sin for which the person will not
      3) desertion

      - the person who has deserted the family and his/her
          marital vows

    B. Command

        - let that person depart

        - don't have to fight, manipulate, cajole

        - now, that believer will want to communicate that
          they want the marriage, that they're willing to
          make any biblical changes in order to preserve the
          marriage, but - if he departs, let him depart

    C. Provision

        - not under bondage (not under obligation to somehow
             keep that marriage going)
        - believer has done all he/she is required to do to
          make that marriage successful
        - they're no longer married and the relationship has

        - is now free to marry in the Lord

- now, verse 15 tells us why God has made this provision -
     why is it according to end of verse 15?
        - because God has called us to peace

- the Lord doesn't want continued turmoil and unrest in the
    believer's life
- its over with - settled - the believer's at peace

- it could very well be that the Lord could use that
   unruffled attitude on the part of the believer, even during
   the divorce proceedings, as a great testimony and witness
   to the unbeliever who filed for the divorce

- these are very important verses, not just for folks who are
   in this situation, but also for all of us as wee seek to
   please the Lord in our relationships with those who don't
   know the Lord

- let me ask you to turn to Rom. 12:18 and we'll look at a
   verse that states this same principle very clearly

    D. Principle - Believers must seek to be at peace with
         others (with these two conditions)

        1. realizing that its not always possible

        2) understanding that they're only responsible for
            their side of the equation

- that brings us to an important question - and that is -
    What do you do when it comes to choices between pleasing
    God or being at peace with others
      - not saying those categories are always mutually
         exclusive (in fact - often pleasing God results in
         peace with others)

      - but you and I know that there are times where it
        comes to choices
           - please God or be at peace with those around

- one question tonight is - when it comes to choices - which
   do you choose?

- I've been reading through the book of Joshua, and at the
   end of Joshua's life he comes to the children of Israel
   and makes a very important speech

- READ Josh. 24:14-15

- when you think about it, its really amazing that Joshua
   would have to make these statements at this period in the
   history of Israel
- they've just moved into the promised land
- the Lord has blessed and the people are rejoicing in that

- but Joshua says - all that victory in the past doesn't
  insure godly living in the future
- he says - you've got a choice to make
    - serve God - or serve all the idols your fathers
        worshipped in Israel
    - see, choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as
       for me and my house--we will serve the Lord

- we face the same kind of choices today - God or idols...and
   one of the most powerful idols our world has to offer
   today is popularity, applause, acceptance, peace
     - but sometimes that can only be gained by forsaking the
        Lord and his commands

- now let's think first about how this would apply to the
   person who's in this specific situation in their marriage
   - then we'll broaden it out

- let's say a person's a believer - they're married to an
   unbeliever who's not pleased to dwell with them
     - perhaps they've already filed for divorce
     - maybe they're simply living in a way that shows
       they're not intending to continue a monogamous
       marital relationship
         - now that's a painful time for that believer
         - I don't care who you are - that's going to hurt

- a person you loved, a person you said you'd spend the rest
  of your life with, perhaps a person you had children with
    - is saying they no longer want you
    - they don't approve of you anymore, they want out of the

- let's assume the believer has communicated that they want
   the marriage and they're willing to take any biblical
   steps to work out the problems and the unbeliever has
   still refused - they want a divorce

- now that believer has a choice to make - Am I going to obey
  this passage of Scripture in I Cor. 7 and let the person
  depart, or am I going to attempt any number of sinful means
  to get my spouse back, to gain his/her approval, to try to
  manipulate or win that person back

- now let's brainstorm this together
   - what sinful means might she be tempted to try if she's
      going to worship at the idol of acceptance and approval
      (let's divide our answers into two parts:
         1) sinful actions the former spouse might demand in
            order to reconcile the relationship?

         2) sinful habits the person might fall into in order
             to manipulate or cajole the person back?

- bottom line - this person is going to be faced with the
    decision - "choose you this day whom you will serve -
    will you serve God and do what he says - or will you
    worship at the idol of acceptance and approval,
    regardless of the cost?"

- now this principle can be broadened out to apply to each a
  and every one of us.
    - repeat principle (D.)

- it ought not to surprise us that we are faced with the
   choice of pleasing God or gaining the acceptance of people
- one of the reasons for that is - it happened all through
   the Bible

INPUT - what Bible characters can you think of who faced
        opposition because of their relationship to God?

INPUT - what things are true of a believer that would make an
   unbeliever uncomfortable if he/she is not going to accept

    - develop - talk about the Bible
        - I have trouble carrying on a conversation without
          mentioning some principle from the Bible
        - you probably do too (cf. primary diff. - Eph. 4:22-

- see, the question is - what do you when it comes to choices
    between pleasing God or gaining acceptance or approval of
       - if we observed you around the office?
       - in the neighborhood?  when you go home for holidays?
       - when you're out with the guys? girls?
        - at the class reunion?

- so Paul has spoken to three categories of believers
   I. Believers married to believers - don't divorce
  II. Believers married to unbelievers who want to stay -
        don't divorce - use that as an opportunity to live a
        holy life in front of your spouse and children
III. Believers married to unbelievers who want to leave -
       let them depart - a brother or sister is not under
        bondage in such cases

Paul's going to move on in verses 17-24 to give a;

IV. Principle To Help Everyone Regardless of Their Marital

    - this one applies to persons in each of the categories
      we already mentioned
    - it surely applies to singles (which you remember he
       discussed earlier in this chapter and whom he's going
       to discuss in some detail later in the chapter)

- READ verse 17-24

- principle is this - Be content regardless of the condition
  you're in
- now you know we're not talking about apathy
    - we're not talking about being complacent about your
       spiritual growth
- but Paul is saying - You need to learn to be content in the
    marital situation in which you currently find yourself

- doesn't mean that a single who comes to the conviction that
   he/she doesn't have the gift of celibacy might not marry
   some day

- that’s not what we're talking about - we're talking about
   today, and the way you think about - the way you respond
   to - the marital condition you currently find yourself in

- see, the problem in Corinth was - there was great
   discontent coupled with a difference of teaching on the
- people who were married to unbelievers wanted to divorce
- people married to believers wanted to divorce
- singles wanted to get married
- married wanted to get single

- Paul says - you desperately need to learn to be contented
    in the situation you're currently in
- he makes that point three different times in this passage

    A. regarding circumcision

        - so he's using the issue of circumcision to
          illustrate his idea
        - of course those who were legalists said the
          believers must still be circumcised in order to go
          to heaven
            - resulting in some new uncircumcised believers
              being discontented because they hadn't been

        - others taught that believers shouldn't be
          circumcised - so there was actually a surgical
          process available in that day to go from being
          circumcised to uncircumcised
            - so you've got uncircumcised discontented people

        - Paul says - No - be contented in the condition you
            find yourself in
            - if you're circumcised - fine
            - if you're not – that’s fine too - be content in
                the situation you're in

- he goes on to apply that truth to slavery

    B. Regarding slavery

        - we're told that as many as half the people in the
          Roman empire were slaves
        - though he didn't put his stamp of approval on
          slavery -Paul uses that volatile issue to
          illustrate his point
             - if you're a slave - learn to be contented in
               that position
                - don't chafe under it - don't try to get
                  out of it
                - be content - let every man abide in the
                  calling in which he was called

- if it's possible for you legally to be freed - fine - but
  that shouldn't be the driving issue in your life
- learn to be content in the situation God has placed you in

- then Paul just states the general principle all by itself
    a third time

    C. In general

        - v. 24 - let every man, in whatever state he is
               called, to there abide with God

- now its very important to see that Paul's not talking here
   about circumcision or slavery per se - he's using those as
   illustrations to prove a point about marriage

- learn to be content in whatever marital state God has
   placed you

- see, why did believers need to be told in verses 10-11 that
   they can't divorce? - because of the temptation to be
   discontented in marriage

- why did believers married to unbelievers need to be told
   that they cannot divorce in verses 12-14 (send that spouse
   away)?  Because of the temptation to be discontented in
   that situation.

- why were believers married to unbelievers who had deserted
    them told to let that person depart - because of the
    temptation to be discontented in that situation.

- why are singles about to be admonished about the values of
    remaining single? - Because of the temptation to be
    discontented in that situation.

- Paul gives us a principle to help all of us - regardless
   of our marital condition - and that is - "let every man,
   in whatever state he is called - to there abide with God."

- that leads us to a second critical question tonight and
    that is - how contented are you in your current marital
    state - and what are you doing to grow in that

- INPUT - what are some influences that can make it difficult
     to grow in that contentment, and what are some
     influences that will make growing in contentment easier?

    D. Application to marital states

        - one of the things we're talking about tonight is
          avoiding the "greener grass" syndrome
        - some spouse sit around and daydream about what it
          would be like to be married to this person or that
            - about how easy life would be if they married
              someone else
- maybe humanly speaking - that would be true
- but the bottom line is - according to this passage - that
    kind of thinking is nothing but sinful

- there's no place for thinking about, or fantasizing about
   how great it would be if you could just get a divorce
      - if you could just be married to so and so

- that kind of thinking will be counterproductive to doing
    what these verses are saying

- see, are you working at being contented where you are?

- we need to beware of the tendency to glorify the past and
    exaggerate the future.
- it was so great before I married so and so
- life's going to be so rotten if I continue in this
     - glorifying the past and exaggerating the future

- that’s what the children of Israel did in the wilderness
   - remember what they said to Moses
     - Oh that we could only be back in Egypt...
        INPUT - what were they doing in Egypt (slaves
        INPUT - what were the conditions like? (treated
            harshly, wouldn't even supply straw to make

          - but they said - oh, that we could be back in
             Egypt - where we sat by the flesh pots, and ate
             bread to the full!

          - to hear them tell - they had lifetime free
            coupons to Mountain Jacks!

- they glorified the past
- they exaggerated the future - you've brought us out here to
    kill us

- see, they were discontented
- you and I must beware of the temptation to fall in the pit
    of discontent

- Paul says - let every man - in whatever state he is called,
    there abide with God

- We also need to factor in the sovereignty of God in this
- at some point we've got to say that a sovereign God allowed
    us to have the spouse we have - or to be single at least
    up to this point
      - we dare not be discontented with the condition He's

- by doing so - we're saying that He made a mistake, that we
   could do a better job of being God than He could

- last Wed. we studied Psalm 100
   - verse three says - know ye that the Lord - He is God

- folks who are constantly discontented need to focus on that

- know ye that the Lord - He is God

- cf. plaque - Remember 2 things
    1) There is a God
    2) You're not Him

   - cf. articles in paper on rape
   - cf. Joshua 22 (it shall be a witness between us that the
            Lord is God)

- we asked a moment ago - how contented are you in your
    current marital state?
- a couple of other questions we could add to that are:

1) - for those who are married - how good of a job are you
      doing at communicating that contentment to your spouse?
    - we're not talking about ignoring problems, acting like
      there's nothing to work on
    - but - are you communicating in tangible ways that you
      are committed to the principles in this passage?
        - or is your spouse always walking on eggs because
          all you do is criticize or accentuate the ways that
          you're discontented?

2) what effect are you having on others and their
    contentment with their marital state. Does being around
    you make them more in love with their spouse or less.
    Does being around you make them more satisfied with being
    single or less?

      - do you help folks obey these verses or make it harder
         for them to do so?

- Paulo concludes this chapter with a special word to singles

- often times you hear the issue of singleness described as
  if "we need to help them cope with this terrible condition"
     - it's second class    - it's not God's best, etc.

- these verses give:

V. Principles For Those With The Gift Of Celibacy To Help
    Them Rejoice In That Gift

    - now we've said all along that in the Word of God,
      marriage is the norm
    - but God does gives folks the gift of singleness

    - one's not more spiritual than the other

    - Paul gives some reasons why singleness can be a great
      blessing to those who have been given that gift

    A. because of the present distress

        - Paul's already seeing some of the events that will
          eventually lead to the full-scale persecution of
          the church about ten years after he's written these

        - so these verses have to be understood in that

    - he's saying - it's one thing to face persecution alone
       - it's something else when you also have
         responsibility for a wife and child

        - this isn't something that married folks should
          worry about today - but those who are single can
          rejoice that if things get increasingly difficult
          for the church in the future, they will have less
          care because they have less responsibility

    B. there will be trouble "in the flesh" - v. 28

        - dealing with our sinfulness is one thing, but
          raising a family complicates that issue because
          there are more potential sinners around

        - again, that’s not something for married folks to get
          uptight about - but it is something singles can
          rejoice in

    C. Freed from marital responsibilities - v. 32-33

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video