We often neglect the subject of motherhood, but it is a relevant topic to all of us – at the very least, we were all born of a mother. It is also an incredibly important and significant role within the church, and should be viewed as such. It is means whereby Jesus can be taken into the home and the family, even if the mum is the only Christian in that place (which is mainly who the apostle Paul is addressing in this verse). Mums can bring godly influence.
The Bible esteems motherhood and holds it in great honour, because it is a calling and a gift from God. There are 6 aspects of this calling:
1. Undervalued calling
Motherhood is not valued highly in our culture and it is seen as “unfashionable” now to have children.
Mums often feel a sense of shame and embarrassment to say they are “just a mum”.
It is not seen as a “real job” – even though it is tough, demanding, 24-7 work!
Our culture has wrongly evaluated motherhood – but the Bible evaluates it in the right way, and so we need to view motherhood through scripture.
Dorothy Patterson – motherhood offers something no other job can: to work with the people you love the most and want to please the most.
2. A noble calling
2 Tim 1:5 – Paul talks about how Timothy came to faith in Christ because of his grandmother and his mother. These 2 women literally changed the world through their role as mothers.
The fifth commandment is a command to honour both our mother and our father (Exodus 20:12).
The book of Proverbs continually lifts up mothers and their role and demonstrates their influence (e.g. 1:8, 23:25, 31:1).
Mothers get to do work on a child’s heart by the grace of God. The heart of a child is what matters – mothers are to shepherd it towards Jesus. All children are born sinful and foolish, and need their hearts to be transformed by God (which only He can do).
3. A warrior’s calling
Motherhood has a weak image but the fact is that actually mums are at war.
Ephesians 5 – the passage about spiritual warfare – comes right after Eph. 4 – the chapter about how family/domestic life should work. Home is where the battlefield is.
Mums need to battle for their children (e.g. in prayer).
Gen. 3 – God describes how the power of evil will affect domestic life and in particular, motherhood.
Mums need to be a force for God in the home.
4. A rewarding calling
Mums can have faith that there will be seasons of blessing, fruit, reward and fulfilment.
Prov. 31:28: ‘Her children rise up and call her blessed’.
5. A spiritual calling
If God calls, He also equips with grace and power from His Holy Spirit.
Mums need to be continually filled with the Spirit, carrying the presence of God.
Mums can trust God to act on their behalf.
God cares especially deeply about single mums – covered by the term “widows” in the Bible. Psalm 146:9.
6. A God-revealing calling
Motherhood reveals something of the character and heart of God.
Gen. 3 – God promises that through children, He will defeat the power of evil. Through one child in particular, Jesus, He did this – He reversed the curse.
God is also like a mother to us (Isaiah 49:15).
God abandoned His own Son so that He would not have to abandon us.
The apostle Paul is still addressing the same problems that the Corinthians had with sex and marriage being “unspiritual”, and believing perhaps that they should leave their marriages in order to be spiritual. But Paul embraces marriage and lifts it up the same way as Jesus. Paul shows that this is teaching from Jesus (v.10 – ‘not I, but the Lord’).
The Greek/Roman culture had a very low view of commitment and a very liberal view of divorce. However, the Christian view on these matters is clear – ‘the wife should not separate from her husband. . .and the husband should not divorce his wife’ (v.10).
To understand marriage and divorce we need to go back to Jesus’ teaching on it in Matthew 19:3-9. Jesus quote from the beginning of Genesis – going right back to when God created man and woman and there was the first marriage.
A couple become one when they are married – that is what they are.
It is a sacred, miraculous thing that reflects the mystery of the Trinity (one God in three Persons).
It is so profound and therefore should never be taken lightly.
Our culture teaches that love and marriage is built purely on romantic love, but this does not make a marriage work. Romantic love is indeed a gift from God and should definitely be a part of a marriage, but it is not the foundation on which to build a marriage. We need to get our idea of love from the Bible.
Covenant love – choosing to love someone, choosing to commit yourself to them – is what makes a marriage work. Reflected in wedding vows – “Will you love” not “Do you love”.
The phrase ‘hold fast’ in this passage is key (v.5).
God loves us with covenant love – we look to reflect that love in our marriages.
Jeremiah 3 – God experiences divorce and betrayal personally, and that is why He hates it. The rules that allowed divorce were made because of sin and the hardness of the human heart – but it was never God’s intentions. He wants covenant love on display.
God understands human sinfulness and has compassion for victims, and so there are cases where divorce may be acceptable:
v.9 – sexual immorality is grounds for divorce. The bond of covenant love has been broken, and the victim is spiritually “widowed” so free from that bond.
Desertion can be grounds.
These things are never black and white though and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the elders of the church. Reconciliation should always be explored because it is God’s intentions to restore.
If divorce was legitimate there are also grounds for remarriage – again not a black and white issue, and needs to be brought to the elders.
Incompatibility? This is a myth. A marriage is made up of 2 sinners! There is always going to be incompatibility, and there will also be seasons of hardship.
Married the “wrong person”? v.20 – remain in the condition you are in.
We need to work at our marriages:
Jesus came to give us a new heart so we can do things like commitment and covenant love.
Commit to physical love – safeguard your marriage from temptation.
Make your marriage holy – make it the thing you refuse to give up on.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, addressing (amongst other things) the issue that sex and marriage is somehow “unspiritual”, Paul rebukes the idea. This is relevant to us today because this thinking is still prevalent in modern Christianity – that somehow marriage, sex and physical pleasure is “wrong” and unspiritual and shouldn’t be enjoyed. However, everything created by God is good (Genesis 1) and is to be enjoyed as long as we enjoy it as a gift from God rather than as a god itself. Also, Paul teaches that to forbid marriage is demonic teaching (1 Tim. 4).
Paul does have a place for singleness though. He agrees to an extent with the Corinthians that singleness is good, but for completely different reasons.
For those who are married – it is important that they hear this message because they are part of the Body of Christ, and need to know what the Bible teaches about singleness.
Paul’s message to all is this: let each person lead the life he is in, the life God has called him to. We don’t necessarily need to change our situation in order to live for God, or alter our conditions in order to be more spiritual – we can be pleasing to God, glorifying and worshipping Him in our current circumstances (marital state, job, etc). Think about the example of Joseph – He served and glorified God when he was a slave, a prisoner, etc.
Why honour singleness?
1. Practical reasons (it’s a gift)
v.7 – it is a gift from God, a blessing – as is marriage.
The context of Paul’s letter – ‘in view of the present distress’ (v.26) – it made singleness a wise option.
Singleness is not a command from Paul, but a suggestion motivated by genuine compassion (v.25, v.40).
It does not mean that you will never be tempted, or that you will love every moment, or that you won’t struggle with loneliness – but God does give grace for every season, and He always knows what He is doing with our lives.
Singleness is a precious season where it gets to be just you and God – He cherishes that time He has with you.
It is not permanent.
It is a gift to be used for the Church. You are to use your gift (whether singleness or marriage) as a way of blessing the Body.
2. Spiritual/eternal reasons:
In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on marriage and child-bearing to maintain a legacy and be fruitful. Jesus changed all that – we now leave an eternal/spiritual legacy.
Isaiah 53 – Jesus is fruitful and has spiritual offspring, despite being single.
The spiritual family we are a part of is greater than any physical family.
Isaiah 56 – we have a name better than sons or daughters.