Focal passage: 1 Corinthians 7:1-13
It is one thing to look with awe and wonder at a picture of a sunset on the African plains. It is another thing altogether, having been to Africa multiple times, to see the beauty of that sunset in person.
A picture may be beautiful, but we intuitively know the actual thing it depicts is even more beautiful and glorious.
When we come to issues about marriage, I believe we often run into problems because we treat marriage as the actual thing, rather than seeing it as the picture of something greater. But Paul tells the believers in Ephesus that marriage is God’s picture of something greater – His covenant relationship with His people (Ephesians 5:32).
That reality should radically change the way we live in our marriages.
Why would Paul admonish the Corinthian believers to walk in faithfulness with their spouses, enjoying regular sexual intimacy as both a good gift from God and as a protection against being drawn away to infidelity? The covenant relationship they had with their spouses was a picture of our covenant relationship with God.
We should enjoy continuous spiritual intimacy with God in our covenant relationship with Him. This ongoing intimacy with Him, in covenant relationship, also protects against our hearts being drawn away into spiritual adultery – chasing after other “gods.”
Why would Paul admonish the Corinthian believers not to divorce? The covenant relationship they had with their spouses was a picture of their covenant relationship with God. For them to break that covenant would give the idea that our covenant relationship with God could be broken – painting a false picture. Jesus would likewise warn against divorce, pointing back to God’s creation design and purpose.
Paul, in admonishing some believers who could have biblically married to stay single, was not downplaying the value of marriage.
His rationale for this charge to singleness had to do with practical focus in ministry, not the value of marriage. But, for those who would marry, his charge was “keep your covenant commitments.”
Why? Because it is a picture before a watching world of God’s covenant love and faithfulness.