Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 7. This is a wonderful chapter and I wish that we might have time to study a number of verses here. Someone may be thinking, We’ve just gotten started in this class. And it’s true. This is all that I’ve intended it to be – a start. I hope you all will be studying the rest of your lives because we’ve read (haven’t we), in Adventist Home, that those who enter the marriage relation enter a school from which they are never in this lifetime to graduate? So this is an introduction to the study of successful marriage, the successful Christian home. (To review the past studies –click here–)
–Marriage: A High & Holy Calling–
Now, in 1 Corinthians 7, I want to direct your attention especially to the 7th verse, but before I do it, let me say this. You know there are some things that everybody should know and do. Take the Sabbath, for instance. Is the Sabbath for everybody? Does everybody know it? No. But can you and I, who have experienced the blessing of the Sabbath, go to anyone assured that if we can help them to see and accept the Sabbath, they will get the blessing as we have? Is that correct? Take the matter of tithe. Should everybody pay tithe or is that just for some people? That’s for everybody.
Now, I have said that to say this: There are some things that aren’t for everybody. The Sabbath is for everybody, the tithe is for everybody, but here is something that we’re going to look at that isn’t for everybody. Will you read with me please?
For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. – 1 Corinthians 7:7
Notice, does Paul teach here that everybody has the same gift on the subject he is discussing? Does he? No. He teaches exactly the opposite. Now, notice what he’s talking about in the 8th verse:
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. – 1 Corinthians 7:8
You see, in the 7th verse he begins:
I would that all men were even as I myself… – 1 Corinthians 7:7
Paul evidently was unmarried. Whether he’d always been or was at this time, we cannot say with certainty. But here he was not only unmarried, but he recommended it to everybody, to be unmarried. But he adds quickly:
…But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. – 1 Corinthians 7:7
Keep in mind these are not the words of somebody who was soured on marriage. The most wonderful things we’ve read in this class, taken from Ephesians 5, were written by the same pen, the same man, Paul. There’s no higher concept of marriage in all the Bible than we find in the writings of the apostle Paul. And yet, here in this verse, he tells us two things. One is that everybody is not called to this. The other is that he himself felt the Lord’s call to the unmarried life and recommended it to others.
Why do I bring this point in to a class for married people? You all are married. I bring it in for two reasons. One is, dear friends, we will get the greatest blessing out of the married state by recognizing that God has called us, not in the mass but as individuals, to this particular experience. In other words, each of you [married couples] should have the joy of knowing that God has picked you out and called you, personally, to marriage, and to marriage to the one to whom you are married.
The second thing is this: all of you have an influence with other people. It is an easy thing for people who are married, that is if they are happily married, shall I say, to wish to have everybody else share the same or experience the same blessing. But just because you have a happy home is no sign that somebody with whom you’re talking will have a happy home if they get married. We’ve already read in this class in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, page 504, that there’s not one marriage in a hundred that results happily and bears the sanction of God. You remember that, don’t you? That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? So we need to be very careful, lest we entertain the idea that married life is innately and essentially and inherently bliss, and that everybody who gets married is thereby going to rise to a higher plane of happiness. That’s not necessarily so.
Most people are disappointed in marriage. Don’t forget it. Most people are disappointed in marriage. The fact that the majority of marriages* lands in the divorce courts is one symptom of it. But that’s just part of the sad results. For every couple that goes through the shame and disgrace and tragedy of a divorce, there are many others that don’t get quite that far, but their lives are sad.
Oh, my dear friends, God help each one of you, as married couples, to be wise in how you counsel other people. Don’t take it for granted that everybody is supposed to get married because this plainly says:
…Every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. – Ibid
And Paul says:
To the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. – 1 Corinthians 7:8
And he doesn’t mean by that that they all are going to or that they all should. But he’s giving his counsel – it’s better for some people to be unmarried. Now, if we had time, we could multiply references on this point, both from the Bible and from the Spirit of Prophecy. Marriage is a wonderful thing. I hope you all are experiencing, and will continue to experience, all the blessing that God has for you. But as I say, remember, it isn’t for everybody.
Somebody says, “Well, isn’t marriage the ideal plan?” Well, there’s no question that was in the beginning when God placed our first parents here. He married Adam and Eve the day they were created. It was His plan that their children and grandchildren and so on, should be married, raise up families and so on, until the earth was populated. But we must remember, dear friends, that we’re living in a world where, because of sin, human characters are not what God intended at all. There are some people that can be saved better by being married. There are some people that can understand the love of God better. But don’t forget these words that we’ve read here.
Now, since we’ve proved this from this text, I want to ask you something: would it be safe, then, for us to take the responsibility of saying to somebody, “I know you ought to be married”? Would it? Why, no. We can say safely to everybody, “I know you ought to be saved. I know you should accept Jesus. I know you should keep the Sabbath. I know you should pay tithe.” But when it comes to being married, there is where people need special guidance from the Lord. Do you see? And we should be careful lest we take it for granted the very thing that they ought to seek God for wisdom and counsel on.
–Be Fruitful & Multiply–
Now, another question, and that is the matter of having children and how many children people should have. Let’s see what light we can get from the Lord on this. In this wonderful book Adventist Home, page 157, you’ll notice that there is a section entitled, “Heritage of the Lord.” This expression is taken from the Psalm 127. Would you turn to that, please? Keep your place in Adventist Home. We are coming
back to it presently.
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them… – Psalm 127:3-5
Among the Jews and among many of the ancient people, it was considered a special blessing to have many children. The barren woman was looked upon either with pity or contempt. When we go back to the original creation, the beginning of things in Genesis 1, you remember we have the words of God to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and…” what? “Multiply, and replenish the earth” (see Genesis 1:28). So it’s very clear that God intended that children should be the result of marriage, the fruit of marriage.
In this class, we’ve spent quite a bit of time showing the great blessing that can come to married people if they really love each other, and they understand that the union of marriage – physical, mental, and spiritual – is the blending of two lives in a deep experience of love. If this were fully experienced, then every child born in this world would be born as the result of love. This is what God intended. He never intended any child to be conceived except through love.
Sad to say, many today are conceived in lust rather than love, and this marks them, too. You can find that in the Spirit of Prophecy. (By the way, if you want one big chapter dealing with the marriage relation, its use and abuse, I know nothing better than the chapter in Volume 2, entitled, “An Appeal to the Church.”)
But now, taking up Adventist Home, you’ll notice that this section is “Heritage of the Lord.” The first chapter is entitled, “Children a Blessing.” Here are some wonderful statements on the blessings that children bring to a home. Near the bottom of the page, you’ll find counsel to a childless couple, and the prophet of God told them that if they had children it might help to cure their selfishness.
Now you can see how this might be. A husband and wife who have nothing to think about but each other – that’s wonderful in a way, but it can lead to selfishness. By the time a child or two or more come along, and they have to get up in the night and take care of them, and all during the day, they have to be looked after, fed, changed and all the rest, it tends to divert the mind from self and too much attention to each other. Most of you have already been through this so you understand what the prophet is talking about. One of the great advantages of children, as I say, is that it tends to divert the mind from self.
Then on page 160, you’ll notice that the presence of a child in a home sweetens and refines. The sympathy, forbearance, and love required in dealing with children would be a blessing in any household. Do children in the home call for sympathy and forbearance? A lot of it? Every day? Yes. Of course, we have to go to God to get those things. The truth of the matter is that some parents, sad to say, develop impatience dealing with children, instead of patience. That’s what’s happening in the world today. But under the leadership of the Spirit of God, the presence of children in the home can draw out these qualities and attributes of love and patience and forbearance and all the rest.
Here at the bottom of the page you find Enoch is set forth as an example. It says:
After the birth of his first son, Enoch reached a higher experience; he was drawn into a closer relationship with God. …And as he saw the child’s love for its father, …as he felt the deep, yearning tenderness of his own heart for that first-born son, he learned a precious lesson of the wonderful love of God… – Adventist Home, pg. 160
This is a beautiful chapter, and I hope all you who are parents are receiving the lessons and getting the blessings that the presence of children in your home was designed to make possible. There are those who suggest that a more holy life is a life without marriage. I think we’ve covered that in past lessons and shown that this is not so. But we’ve also shown, the Bible itself makes it clear that some people are not called to marriage.
The apostle Paul was one. John the Baptist was another. We have other examples. So in this matter of having children. Children are a blessing; marriage is a blessing, but just as God has not called everybody to be married, neither has He called every married couple to have children. And we’ll show this from the writings. In all these matters, I hope you’re listening to everything we read and everything we say, because if all you get is certain sentences, disconnected from their settings, you’ll come to the wrong conclusions. God gives breadth of mind, balanced minds.
We who are married should be able to get all the blessing that there is in marriage without feeling that everybody else has to get married or else they’re second-class citizens. No, no. The same way with this matter of having children. Children are a blessing. We’ve read that here, haven’t we, from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy?
But that doesn’t mean that God has called everybody to that particular responsibility. Now, turning over to Adventist Home, page 162, we have a chapter on the size of the family and the third paragraph is a key statement:
Before increasing their family, they should take into consideration whether God would be glorified or dishonored by their bringing children into the world. – Adventist Home, pg. 162
There’re three very clear things in this sentence. Let’s get the nut pick and pick them out now so we can look at them. First, does this sentence teach us that in some cases it would glorify God to bring children into the world? Is that what this sentence says? Do you all see that in this sentence? That’s what it says. Does the same sentence tell us that under some conditions it dishonors God to bring children into the world? Is that what this says? Yes. Now, I didn’t say either one of these. We’re just studying what God said. The third thing that I want you to notice is that parents are to consider whether in their particular case it would glorify God or dishonor God to bring a child into the world. And when are they to consider this, does it say? When? Before increasing their family; obviously before conception.
I’m reminded of what I heard a friend of mine say a number of years ago. He said, “The Spirit of Prophecy is just good common sense.” And I might add to that what I heard another friend say, “That common sense is one of the most uncommon things in the world.” But really, friends, isn’t it just good common sense, if God is in the business of guiding people, to find out before a child is conceived whether or not it will glorify God or dishonor God in that particular home, in those particular conditions, to bring a child into the world? Wouldn’t that be just good common sense? Yes.
Let’s read the sentence together now:
Before increasing their family, they should take into consideration whether God would be glorified or dishonored by their bringing children into the world. – Adventist Home, pg. 162
Now, as you read on in this chapter (and I hope you’ll all read it) you’ll find various factors there to be considered. Here the next paragraph deals with the question of the mother’s health. Is that an important factor to consider? Yes. Then you will find this statement:
Parents should not increase their families any faster than they know that their children can be well cared for and educated. – Adventist Home, pg. 163
There are educational factors to consider, economic factors, others.
God has given you reason, and He requires you to use it. – Adventist Home, pg. 164
Now, there are certain people that seem to have the idea that when people marry, they should, as we might word it, “let nature take its course.” There are certain religions that seem to emphasize that. Whatever might be said in certain periods of the world’s history – when the world was young and everybody was healthy and we didn’t have some of the problems we have now – whatever might have been said in past
ages, we have the clear counsel of the prophet, which agrees with common sense, that this is not true that married couples should have all the children that they might have biologically, but rather that reason should be used. Reason should be used. And of course, the guidance of the Spirit of God should be sought.
Now, besides the considerations about which everyone should be thinking, you will find a special consideration that some ought to get guidance from the Lord on. Now, this particular paragraph came from the Review and Herald in 1885. This has to do with the relationship to successful missionary work. As I read some of these sentences and you follow, let us open our hearts to the guidance of the
Spirit of God:
In sending missionaries to distant countries, those men should be selected who know how to economize, who have not large families, and who, realizing the shortness of time and the great work to be accomplished, will not fill their hands and houses with children, but will keep themselves as free as possible from everything that will divert their minds from their one great work. The wife, if devoted and left free to do so, can, by standing by the side of her husband, accomplish as much as he. God has blessed woman with talents to be used to His glory in bringing many sons and daughters to God; but many who might be efficient laborers are kept at home to care for their little ones. – Adventist Home, pgs. 165-166
Here again is some good common sense. But I am so glad that God saw fit to give us Divine revelation on this question, because, may I say, dear friends, there are people, and good people too (and I think I should tell you what they think), they think that every married couple ought to have children. And they think that even though we are living in the time of the end that they ought to. Occasionally we find someone who
feels that down in this age of the world’s history that nobody should have children.
I shall have to tell you that both groups are going beyond what’s written. We do not find in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy counsel which tells us that down here in this last generation that nobody should have children. We don’t find that. That’s an extreme position. On the other hand, I want you to notice that it’s very clear that we are to take into consideration the shortness of time and the great work to be accomplished.
Did you notice that in what we read here?
In sending missionaries to distant countries, those men should be selected who know how to economize, who have not large families, and who, realizing the shortness of time and the great work to be accomplished, will not fill their hands and houses with children, but will keep themselves as free as possible from everything that will divert their minds from their one great work. – Ibid
Should the shortness of time be considered then? That’s what this says. But that doesn’t mean that everybody should quit having children. Enoch, who was translated and who is a type of the people who will be translated today, this was one of the things that helped him to get ready for translation, wasn’t it? Most of you folks have children. And just as I have told you in past classes, never, as we study the high standards for marriage, never let the devil tempt you to think, “Oh, I wish we hadn’t gotten married.” No, no. The Lord wants you to make a
success of your marriage. You who have children, never let the devil bother you with the idea, “Oh, my, we have children and they’re tying us up.” Sure they’re tying you up. They ought to. Never neglect your children because of some call to missionary work.
You have a great responsibility whether you have one child or half a dozen. Of course, God has told us that your children should be your helpers in missionary work. And I can tell you one thing, dear friends, you who have children, if you make a success of rearing your children for God, you can help a lot of folks in the world and in the church with the problems that are just filling their hearts and minds today. But on the other hand, this paragraph plainly shows that there are people that could win many souls to God if they’ll keep their hands and hearts free, “as free as possible,” it says.
Here is a delicate matter, and one that nobody should try to settle for another. But a married couple have the promise of God, to which we have already referred:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally… – James 1:5
So, whether it’s a question of having the first child or the second or the third or whatever the number, certainly here, this wonderful paragraph, with all these different considerations on the size of the family, is an encouragement to every couple to seek the Lord, both by study and by prayer, until they know what God wants them to do. Now who’s going to teach Brother and Sister A how many children they should have? Who’s going to do that? The Lord. Will He do it? Yes. And we can’t decide.
You know, I’ve thought about it, friends. We might look at some family and think, “What in the world are they having children for? Look how poor they are.” But Abraham Lincoln wasn’t born in the White House, was he? What kind of home did he come out of? A poor home. So we’ll have to leave with God and the married couple what they do about these things. We can’t control it, anyway. And the Bible says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” Matthew 7:1. But this is just good, sanctified, common sense counsel from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy on these important matters.
And let me say, dear friends, that in this matter of soul winning, it’s a wonderful thing, first of all, shall I say, to have a child physically. Enoch found it so. But may I tell you, it’s a wonderful thing to have children spiritually. It’s a wonderful thing to bring into the kingdom of God many sons and daughters. That’s what this paragraph says here:
…Bringing many sons and daughters to God… – Adventist Home, pg. 166
And there are people that could get a lot more souls into heaven by concentrating on that. So I trust that this has been sufficiently balanced so that we’ll not run to extremes in either direction.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.