God, Sex and Marriage

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Sometimes when you're introducing a sermon it's useful to have a clever hook to get people interested and help them to see the value of what you're about to read. For this passage I just need to read out a few repeated ideas from the chapter – sex life, marriage, divorce, remarriage, singleness, sexual temptation. If that hasn't got you interested someone needs to take your pulse. All of us are going to relate to this passage in some way!

Please turn up 1 Cor 7 on page [p807] – it's going to be really important you can look at the passage so please do turn to p807. If you didn't get to the AM service last week to hear Richard preach on the last part of Chapter 6, then download his sermon from the HTG website – it was very helpful. Chapter 6 ended with the statement that "You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price." =- that is Jesus' blood paid the price for our sin and we now belong to God. Chapter 7 helps us understand what it means to be "not our own" when it comes to marriage, sex and singleness. Richard ended his sermon with the sort of advertising that you're not sure you're glad of – he said that today's passage may be difficult reading for us. And he said that because it's true - almost all of this chapter runs counter to popular thinking about how these areas of life should work. Some of it will run counter to things that are deep within us, they may touch on things very personal to us, things we've struggled with, things that have caused, or still cause, us, or those dear to us, much pain and anguish.

But it'd be wrong of us to think that learning to live with Jesus as Lord is pain – Jesus wants us to live as he intended – not because it's a pain, but because it brings blessing and because he deserves it – he bought us. He wants us to discover the good life. And so any hesitation we have when it comes to these topics should be overcome with the knowledge that Jesus has good things in store as we learn what it means to live with him as Lord of our marriages, sexual expression and singleness.

I've got 3 points to help us break up these 40 verses, although I won't cover every verse. If you're in a home group then you'll have a chance to discuss these on Wed so go along. My first point is that sex is a good part of a marriage.

1. Sex is a good part of a marriage (1-6)

Read with me from v1 of 1 Cor 7:

 "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry."

Now let's pause there for a moment. We're about to enter into a one sided conversation – the church had written to Paul to ask him or tell him some things and this is his reply. There's at least four issues we'll see him respond to in 1 Corinthians as a whole. The first is in the second half of this sentence – the Corinthians seem to have written to Paul "it's good for a man not to marry" or as it more helpfully translates it in the footnote - if you look down at the bottom where it says "it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman". This is the remark Paul is going to respond it – is it good for a man to avoid sexual relations with a woman?

The common philosophy of the day was that the soul was the critical thing and the body didn't really matter – so last week we heard that some in the church in Corinth clearly didn't have an issue with having sex with prostitutes, presumably because the body was worthless, so why not do whatever you want with it? In chapter 7 we see this philosophy distorting the Corinthian's thinking about sex within marriage. They'd concluded that sexual pleasure, being of the body, somehow contaminated their soul and marriage, and distracted them from higher spiritual goals. So they asserted a right to say "no" to sex within their marriages. A husband might have said to his wife, "I am no longer going to have sex with you as I've given myself to the Lord", equally he might have said "I don't want to contaminate our holy marriage by having sex with you" and instead had sex outside of marriage where they thought it didn't matter. So how does Paul respond?

Continue with me in v2

2 But since there is so much [sexual] immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

So what is Paul saying? Sex was being denied within the marriage and had instead been shifted outside the marriage. They had avoided sex in marriage to become more holy, but had landed themselves in sexual immorality. Their thinking was futile and so Paul ordered them back to God's mandate – married people should have sex with their spouse, and only their spouse. But he says a lot more than that. Read on in v3

3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command.

Paul's command here is a husband should give themselves to his wife and a wife to her husband. Other translations replace the phrase "marital duty" in v3 with "conjugal rights", but Paul's not talking rights, he's talking mutual obligation. This is not a focus on what I want, but a focus on what pleases my spouse. This is a giving of oneself, like Christ gives himself for his church, not a taking for oneself. The wife and husband don't have authority over their own bodies because in marriage they gave their bodies to their spouse. This is not one demanding sex and the other refusing; this is two people who have given themselves to each other and their focus is not getting or taking but giving. It's Christ-like love expressed in a sexual way. And so you can see the problem of them saying "no sex" to their spouse – it's depriving - note that's Paul's word in v5 – depriving their spouse of something they have no right to hold back.

But, Paul does give a minor concession to those who genuinely wished to seek holiness. He says you can deprive one another, but only for a time and by both agreeing, so that you can spend more time praying. By the way, if nothing else convinces you of the prominence Paul places on prayer, take note – prayer is the only thing he says that could justify such a break. But even for prayer, he says, make it a short break so Satan doesn't tempt you back into the temptation you've just fled – from sexual immorality. It's a concession he says, not a command – the command is in v3.

3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband

So what does this mean for us?

First two things it doesn't mean. Paul is clearly not addressing those who are married but are prevented from full sexual expression through a medical condition. If that is you, then this passage should not induce you to any form of guilt. Second, Paul does not prescribe a frequency of sex within marriage –that is something that is specific to each marriage and to be discussed under an attitude of giving. It will be subject to the seasons of life and, as with all of marriage, it will benefit from discussion within the marriage on a regular basis.

The first, and most obvious, thing it does mean is that if you are having sex outside of your marriage, you need to stop immediately and you need to get help. You need to speak to Rod. As v18 of the previous chapter says, you need to flee from sexual immorality.

For those of us who travel often for work, thinking this through may mean you need to cut back on that travel to avoid temptation. It may mean, as one Christian author did, handing the TV remote control to reception. It may mean choosing a hotel chain that doesn't include the advertisement of pornography in their hotel rooms. Choose a hotel without wifi. Richard's sermon last week had a whole lot more thoughts on this – again listen to it. The bottom line, though, is that if being away from home means you are being sexually immoral, then you either need to find reliable self control or your need to stop travelling.

The second application is that this sexual obligation we have to our spouses is on par with the other obligations of marriage. It would be to completely fall into the Corinthian trap to think you can help your spouse grow to great spiritual heights, while neglecting the physical side of your relationship. We can't partition our bodies and souls like the Corinthians. To have sex regularly with your spouse is to help them in their holiness.  This is the flip-side to the first application because caring for one's spouse's sexual satisfaction will help keep them from temptation. This is both realistic and loving. It's realistic because we all know we're all subject to temptation. It's loving because we want our spouse to be holy. It doesn't make any sexual sin on their part our fault. It does mean we can help them. Because we love them we ought to do that.-

The third thing is that Paul's words also rebuke us if we have a "sex is about me" attitude to sex with our spouse. A godly spouse isn't seeking their pleasure first of all, but their spouse's. A Christ-like person will respect their spouse's tiredness, just as that spouse, if they are Christ-like, will desire to create times for sex when they are not as tired. That will be a live issue to the many of us with small children in the house, and again requires communication working from a base of self-sacrificial love.

The final application of this first point is that we should regard sex within our marriages as good not bad. We're going to look at the issue of being single in a few minutes, but in getting married, the believer goes from having an attitude of "no sex, ever" to "sex, and regularly" overnight. It is entirely common as a result for some Christians to take a long time to see sex within their own marriage as being a good thing. Instead it seems bad or dirty. That can, of course, lead to an avoidance of sex – the foundational thinking may be different to that of the Corinthians here, but the outworking is the same – sex is avoided because it seems wrong. And so it will helpful to meditate on passages like this – and Genesis 2 and Song of Songs – where God makes it abundantly clear that from the moment you commit your life to your spouse under God, he declares your sexual expression with each other a good and wonderful thing.

Paul follows this with a discussion of how Christians should respond to hard times in marriages, and explicitly he discusses divorce.  He says a marriage covenant cannot be broken, and that is my second point.

2. A marriage covenant cannot be broken (10-16; Matthew 19:1-12)

We're going to come back to v7 and skip down to v10 – read along with me from there

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife

About 120,000 people will file for divorce in this country this year. Twice as many women as men will initiate divorce proceedings. The reasons given are dominated by behavior, separation or adultery. So are Christians free to join them? Can we, and under what conditions, divorce and know we have done right in God's eyes? We all know Christians who have divorced and indeed some of us have experienced divorce. So, Paul's statement here in 1 Cor is completely counter-cultural: "A husband must not divorce his wife"

Paul says in v10&11, that if for some reason a married couple separate, they must not divorce but instead seek reconciliation or both remain unmarried. They must not divorce, he says.

In the verses that follow, he talks about what someone should do if they are married to an unbeliever. His answer is you should stay together as far as it is within your power to do so. He recognizes that any time there are two completely different worldviews within a marriage there is the potential for great difficulty. How much more when you start off with the same worldview and then you accept Jesus and learn to follow him and want to go to church and give generously in time and money? Your spouse isn't going to understand and may very well oppose you in that. This is not hypothetical. This is hard.

The Corinthians seemed to think they were being spiritually compromised by the presence of an unbelieving spouse. But Paul's instruction is clear to them and to us - the believer must not, he says, divorce their spouse. And he encourages people in that situation that actually it's the opposite to what they thought – the presence of a believer in that marriage sets the unbelieving spouse apart in some way – sanctifies them in some way – perhaps meaning the powerful witness that exists when an unbeliever sees their spouse become increasingly Christ-like. And so certainly, he says, you must not divorce.

It's important that you notice that Paul is leaning on the authority of Jesus himself when he says that Christians must not divorce – look in v10 where he says "I give this command (not I, but the Lord)". He's saying that Jesus gave this command when he was on Earth. We can see the relevant words of Jesus in three of the gospels where Jesus addresses the issue of divorce and remarriage. It's worth us having a look at two of them. Leave a marker in 1 Cor and turn with me to Mark 10: 2

2 Some Pharisees came and tested [Jesus] by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

3 "What did Moses command you?" he replied.

4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

5 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6 "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 7 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

The disciples weren't sure if they got it, so followed it up with v10

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

Jesus says that God has created a marriage and it is not for man to undo that. That is, God doesn't divorce people.

The second description of the events in Luke's gospel is shorter but it says the same thing. Matthew's gospel is where some differences appear to surface. Leave Mark and turn with me to Matthew 19: 3

3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

[so far, it's effectively identical to Mark, but note v9]

9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

So the key questions become, what does Jesus mean here by marital unfaithfulness and why don't Mark, Luke and Paul mention it in their own summaries of Jesus' command? Does God unjoin those he has joined in marriage?

And the answer has to be so shocking that the disciples conclude in v10

10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

Whatever Jesus meant, it seemed so very difficult to the disciples that they considered abandoning the idea of marriage all together.

The NIV's phrase "Marital unfaithfulness" in v9, as a translation of the Greek porneia, may be misleading. Porneia is not the word for "adultery" [moicheia]; rather it covers a wide range of sexual misconduct. It's our opinion that the word Porneia here is referring to marriage with someone you were not permitted to marry in the first place –like marriage to a close relative. And in that case, the divorce would annul the marriage that should never have occurred and indeed never did occur in God's eyes.

That understanding makes sense of why Mark, Luke and Paul do not mention the exception. That's particularly important for our passage back in 1 Corinthians because we have read that married people were committing adultery. And yet Paul didn't mention this justification for divorce. If Jesus did mean that adultery was a sufficient reason for divorce, then why didn't he raise it when clearly the Corinthians had that reason? Instead he says, "they must not divorce". And that interpretation of Matt 19 also makes sense of the reaction of the disciples that follows it. Our firm belief is that Jesus does not allow divorce. That what God has joined together, then no man can separate.

Our Old Testament reading in Malachi 2 explained that marriage is a binding covenant between two parties that should not be broken. God is a covenant keeping sort of God – we rejoice in that because he isn't going to break the covenant he made between us and him in the blood of Jesus. That means any wrong we've done, any sin we've committed, anything we did in ignorance or deliberate rebellion, God promises – and he does not fail to keep his promises – he promises those things are dealt with as we come under the power of the cross. And because of his covenant-keeping nature, Malachi 2 goes on to say "God hates divorce". Anyone who has ever been divorced hates it too.

For those of you who are happily married, then can I urge you to not even joke about divorce. Don't even bring it into a playful and lighthearted conversation. Take divorce and put it outside your realm of thinking. Work on your marriage to keep it strong and make it stronger – all marriages have tough times, so build your relationship up for those tough times. Doing the Marriage Course we run here at HTG is a way to be proactive – next time it runs, do it. Men, don't wait to be talked into by your spouse – lead your wife and protect your marriage. See the challenge of the love Christ has for the church and realize that even your good marriage has so much further to go.

Some of you in Christian marriages, I know, will feel a lot closer to being on the edge of relationship breakdown or indeed emotionally, even if not officially, separated. The good times seem a very long time ago. I want to encourage you by reminding you that God is committed to your marriage. He made you and your spouse one and he desires your marriage to remain. Pray to the God who is committed to your marriage. He made marriage, including yours, to teach the world about how Christ loves the church! He is committed to working in you and through you to make you and your spouse godlier and for your relationship to bring him glory. He will use these hard days to develop godly characteristics in you that will set your hearts toward heaven. And because of his commitment to you and your marriage, keep going in your relationship. Seek reconciliation, offer forgiveness. Seek wise counseling. Look to the cross and see the one who died for your spouse as well as you.

There are situations where physical separation is required – because of violence or abuse toward you or others in the household – if that is you, then get help immediately. God wants you, and children in your care, to be safe. It is right for you to seek help. Please seek help. God wants you to seek help and remove yourself physically from the situation.

Whatever the circumstances, if a marriage remains unreconciled, then Paul is clear here in 1 Cor 7 – just as Jesus was clear – the Christian must not seek divorce.

I know this is a really hard teaching. I have seen close up just how hard this is. But we, like Paul, must be convinced that all of God's ways are good.

Now, some are divorced against their will – they didn't ask for divorce but it was thrust upon them. In that case there should be no guilt about the divorce. For others, divorce was something they entered into willingly and hence acted against Jesus' command, and so repentance is needed. Pursuing divorce was wrong. For those of us divorced already, and where your spouse has not remarried, seek reconciliation with your spouse. God remains committed to your marriage. Ask him to renew your thinking about your relationship and spouse. Seek help where appropriate. If reconciliation isn't possible, you must remain single because Jesus makes it clear that to remarry is to commit adultery– as he said

"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

But isn't that an impossible command? How can someone who is divorced be expected to live a sexless life or live a life of singleness having tasted a little of an intimate relationship? That goes against the very nature of life, doesn't it? There's no doubt that for people in this situation that this isn't going to be easy. But God doesn't promise sexual relationships to all, he doesn't suggest that marriage is the only way to have a deep relationship – but he does promise he will give us life to the full. He promises a way out of any temptation and he promises grace that is sufficient for each and every situation.

For those who are remarried already, then God makes it clear you should stay with your present spouse. He will act to your good in that relationship, but he calls you to submit your thinking to the teaching of the bible – a process that will no doubt be incredibly difficult – as you realize that you should not have divorced and you should not have remarried. There are consequences for remarriage - 1 Tim makes it very clear that a leader in the church is to be a "husband of but one wife" – that is, they are not to be someone who has remarried at any point of their life. So remarriage, at any stage of life, will keep you from some leadership ministries within HTG. What it does not do is mean you are a second class Christian or unable to serve Christ's church. You were bought with a price. God loves you. He will gift you to serve him appropriately.

It's important I am clear – as in the church in Corinth, those who are having trouble in their marriages, those who are separated or divorced or remarried are all welcome at HTG – there can be no better place you can be! And all of us have a responsibility to one another to support marriages, to pray for marriages, to encourage strengthening of marriages or reconciliation where relationships no longer function as they should. In love, those in authority in the church must discipline believers who refuse to submit to Jesus as Lord. Equally, we must invest thought, time and energy in being proactive to support marriages and keep them strong. That's why we run the marriage course and that's why we often pray for marriages on a Sunday. That's why we encourage date nights or exchanging babysitting so you can spend quality time with your spouse. That's why we want everyone in a small group, so there is a context for caring for all people, including those who are married.

God is committed to marriage

But God is not focused only on marriage. He is also focused on those who are single. My final point is that being single has some massive advantages over being married.

If you're not back in 1 Corinthians 7, turn back there on page 807

3. Being single has some massive advantages over being married (25-40; 7)

Paul has a mindset that is pretty unusual – he sees, or perhaps more accurately has learnt, the value of singleness. He says so back in v7, where having discussed marriage Paul says

7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

Paul sees both marriage and singleness as a gift. Something God has given. We know that the gift of marriage is not forever – even without divorce, half of those already married will at some time be single again through bereavement. And we'll see in a minute that having the gift of singleness is not necessarily a gift forever either. But it is, if we get our thinking right, a gift to be treasured. Singleness is not a second class gift from God. And the key reason Paul thinks singleness is so good is that it enables the single person to focus more energy and time on their holiness and the gospel.

He explains this from v25 – skip down there with me

25 Now about virgins[that is, people never married]: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy [that is, he doesn't have a direct quote from Jesus like he did on divorce, but he still speaks with God's authority]. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

What does he mean by the "present crisis" in v26? he explains that in the next verse, v29

29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.

So the crisis is related to the time being so short before Jesus comes back – it's the urgency of the gospel. And because we live in the same period of crisis, all of this applies just as much to us as well. He goes on in v29

29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Now if he meant what he says about marriage literally he would be contradicting himself from the beginning of the chapter – clearly husbands and wives were to take their marriage seriously. What he's saying is, rather, to sit light with the world. Remember that everything is going to pass away, so don't live as if this is all there is. Focus yourself on more than marriage or singleness; focus on taking the time we have, as short as it is, and use it as well as you can for God's purposes.

In terms of the benefits of singleness, he explains himself in v32

32 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. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Marriage divides your attention and Paul wants us to be as undivided in our devotion to the Lord as we can. He doesn't devalue marriage – not at all – he's the one who tells us that marriage is the ultimate real-life analogy of Christ's relationship with his Church – Paul loves marriage, but he sees the opportunity that he has for undivided devotion to the Lord, he sees the goodness of that and the troubles and anxieties that marriage brings, and he wants others to share in that goodness of singleness.

But Paul knows that there's no point in being single, trying to be holy, if it is the singleness that is a great stumbling block to you in being holy. Look with me at 36.

36 If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.

Before we think about what this means for us it's worth making it clear that having a sexual desire for someone is not the only criteria the bible gives for choosing a marriage partner, although it is essential. There's 5 in fact

It must be someone who is free to marry – that is not married or divorced It must be someone of the opposite sex Not someone who you are too closely related to You must have a sexual desire for them. And it must be another Christian.

That final point is made by Paul when he says in v39

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.

We all know believers who married a non-Christian and it all worked out fine, but Paul says believers must marry someone who belongs to the Lord – that is another Christian. If someone marries a non-Christian knowing this, then the marriage is disobedience. God, in his mercy, will bless that marriage as any other and he may choose to bring that spouse to himself, but that does not justify the decision to marry.

So what should the single person do? I wrote to a couple of Christian single friends, a guy and girl who have both been single for longer than they would like and asked them for their thoughts. Both have thought and wrestled through these issues, and this passage in particular. So, their wisdom and insight I regard as gold and helped me think through six points of application.

First, know that God loves you and cares for you. He gave his Son up for you. In those painful times, that is something to cling to. God promises good things to those who love him. Root yourself in your identity in Christ – don't see yourself as "a single" but as a Child of God who is currently single. As one of my friends tells herself often "if God wants me to be married I will be but whatever state God gives me God knows what is best for me". She went on to say if you're under 40 and female, the hope remains of one day having your own children but the closer that time comes the more you will need to cling to those promises of the goodness of God toward you. So, talk through that struggle with a friend, but choose one who will point you back to God's goodness as they care for you. Paul says elsewhere that he has learned contentment in every situation. So within the knowledge of the love of God, learn to be single and content.

Second, don't view marriage through rose tinted glasses. Loneliness, for instance, isn't a singleness issue. If there's one thing worse than being single and lonely it's being married and lonely. While this chapter is massive and could easily have been split into 2 or 3 sermons, one advantage of taking it all together is that is doesn't fragment off the singleness section from the sections that highlight the difficulty of marital faithfulness and the pain and repercussions of divorce. Remember, when the disciples saw the marriage covenant as Jesus did, they were tempted to do away with marriage. So cultivate friendship with married people, see the hard things as well as the good things and don't put life on hold.

Third, see the positives of singleness. There's more time to know the Lord and his word better, freedom to be spontaneous, lie on sofa with a Christian book all day, help out others, help out at Church, travel and spent time with friends. But don't let the opportunity to do whatever you want, whenever you want, become either an idol or selfishness. If you've ever heard yourself say that the older you get the more inflexible you are, then that's just saying you're becoming more selfish. If you get married one day then you will need to serve your spouse and give up yourself to them. So if you're inclined to spend time imagining the characteristics of your perfect spouse, counter that by serving with all your energy. Develop a servant heart. Grow in Christ-likeness.

Fourth, while the world offers the expectation of marriage for all, God does not promise that. Be aware of things that will lead you into that worldview. If you struggle with singleness, perhaps it's helpful to avoid rom-coms with their happily-ever-after plot lines. You may need to avoid seemingly harmless shows like Friends or Scrubs which focus on relationships constantly. Beware of good things that make you discontent – like weddings or friends having children, and, prayerfully, prepare yourself that you might rejoice with them.

Fifth, avoid intimate friendships with non-Christians of the opposite sex. Marrying a non-Christian is not a solution to your problems, it is disobedience. And Christian men in particular, stop dreaming that the girl down the pew is going to ask you out – she is not. If after some prayer, you've decided you want to be married get off your backside and get on with it.

Finally, for the entire church family: we shouldn't buy into the idea that marriage is the preferred state to be in. It's fair to say we have done, and we must repent of that. Parents, this applies to what we teach your children – teach them the goodness of both marriage and singleness. Care for single people, whether never married, separated, divorced or bereaved. Do not just have couples over to your house, but invite single people. Invest in one or two friendships with those not married. Especially if you have kids, allow them the joy of spending time with you as a family.


We've got to finish before the computer runs out of hard drive to record the talk. What is Paul on about? He wants us to see that Jesus is Lord of Marriage, Sex and Singleness and he wants us to submit completely to his Lordship.

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