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1 Corinthians 7:25-40
Wednesday AM Bible Study
August 22, 2007
Theme: In making the important life decision of marriage, the believer must ask, "How can I choose in such a way as to preserve as much availability of myself to the Lord as possible?"
In this chapter, Paul speaks a great deal about marriage, divorce and remarriage. Now, at the close of this chapter, he takes up the question of virgins—and particularly, the matter of singleness in a time of social and cultural distress. The key note in this section is that of placing a priority on an undistracted devotion and availability to the Lord in whatever life-situation we enter.
I. PAUL'S SANCTIFIED JUDGMENT-CALL REGARDING THE UNMARRIED (vv. 25-28a).
A. Paul does not here give a "commandment from the Lord". That is, he is not reciting something that the Lord already said—as he did in verse 10-14. This is not to say that his judgment on the matter, however, lacks authority (see v. 40). He speaks as one whom the Lord, in mercy, has made 'trustworthy'.
B. In the form of a general principle, Paul affirms something that is related to the "present distress". We're not told what the distress is; but it is apparently something that makes it best, in the Corinthian context, to remain single—if at all possible. As someone once said, a storm is a bad time to change ships.
C. Paul's words, however, should not be taken as a command of celibacy. He affirms marriage; and seems to go out of his way to affirm that it is not a sin to marry. Jesus Himself taught that not everyone has been "given" to be single (Matthew 19:10-12). There are clearly situations—particularly because of the immorality of the Corinthian culture—in which it would be unwise NOT to marry (vv. 2, 9). But he doesn't hesitate to affirm that singleness best keeps a believer available to full and undistracted service to the Lord.
II. PAUL'S CONCERN FOR WHAT IS BEST FOR THE UNMARRIED BELIEVER (vv. 28b-35).
A. Paul clearly states that entering into a marriage brings with it certain obligations and limitations that it may not be best to enter into during certain periods of time or certain trying circumstances. Paul says this in order to "spare" his beloved fellow Christians from the troubles that those obligations would bring during those distressing periods of time.
B. He describes the present circumstance as a time during which those who have obligations and ties to the concerns of this world would wish that they didn't have them (vv. 29-31). He is not saying that those obligations are wrong; but simply that, at certain times of distress, the believer who wishes to give full service to the Lord may wish that they didn't have them (2 Timothy 2:4). And he makes it very clear that his words on the matter are not in order to "put a leash" (literally, put a cord or noose) on anyone, but so that they may give undistracted devotion to the Lord during trying times; and to be as available as possible to "please the Lord".
III. PAUL'S ASSERTION THAT IT IS NOT WRONG TO MARRY (vv. 36-40).
A. Paul was most likely writing these words in answer to questions the Corinthians put to him regarding how a father should deal with his virgin daughter (compare v. 1 with v. 25). In the context of that day and culture, the right of a daughter to marry rested fully on the permission of the father; and if, in his heart, he felt it best for her not to marry, Paul affirmed the father's decision. If, however, he felt that his virgin daughter was "past the flower of youth", and if "thus it must be", he is not doing wrong in giving her away in marriage.
B. Likewise, a woman made single by the passing of her husband is also free to marry—"but only in the Lord" (v. 39). But Paul insists that she will be happier if she remains as she is (that us, unmarried). He doesn't make this into a hard-and-fast rule for all; but he does assert that he speaks from wisdom given him by the Spirit of God.
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