The Sovereign God Answers Prayer According to His Great Wisdom
A disclaimer on pre-marital counseling: training before we start our jobs, training before we drive a gasoline propelled 1500 lbs metal vehicle down the road at an average of 40+ miles and hour. But pre-marital training is often scoffed at by the world.
1. A Principle Proclaimed (v25-28)
1. A Principle Proclaimed (v25-28)
25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
Paul now addresses the final words of Chapter 7 in the direction of “virgins” or as we might interpret “those who have never been married.” About 1/4 in attendance today qualifies and is the subject of Paul’s address. He has already exhorted those who are married, those who are in danger of divorce, and those given the gift of singleness like Paul, after marriage. Now he gives a general address to those yet to be married and those considering and planning on being married. While his address focuses on the pre-marital crowd, the general address from Paul identifies for us a warning to all about marriage. His warning comes to the pre-marital bunch because he still has time to warn them. But his warning is for all the church.
What is that warning? We will get to it momentarily. But Paul reminds them again that this is not something that the Lord has taught on when He walked the earth and yet His spirit speaks through Paul to equip the church. Paul calls this his “opinion” or “judgment” and he uses this same word in verse 7:40 as well and in 1 Cor 7:6. In 7:6, he states that his idea of abstinence for the sake of temporary prayer is a principle that is was spiritually discerned from the totality of God’s word and therefore a helpful and necessary consideration.
So also, his judgment in 7:25 that will be given to those unmarried is also one to which we should consider and learn from, because with Paul’s spiritual discernment, he has greatly equipped the church with his wise words. He states his case for this judgment on the basis that “by the mercy of the Lord, (he) is trustworthy.” The Lord has gifted Paul this wisdom and inspiration by the HS to address these issues for the church. The Lord called him and qualified him and inspired him to write truths that reflect the heart of God. Paul is speaking to the church on behalf of the Lord and the church should heed his wisdom.
People are still and have been attacking the validity of Paul’s letters in the NT since the early church. He has addressed those claims here in the letter to Corinth.
1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
In the same way, skeptics of Paul attack his authority as an apostle and the relevancy of his letters in the NT. This is foolish and a simple attack the inerrancy of the whole of Scripture. The Lord guided the writers of the Old and New Testaments to write by His Spirit. The Lord bound these books up into the canon of Scripture and he preserved these letters through the centuries. Church all of Scripture is breathed out by God and we should see it as such. God’s character of trustworthiness is exactly what why we can trust Paul’s words…because the Lord gave them to Paul.
What is the principle that he is teaching? What is the warning that we should be wise to?
He visits again the principle that remaining single has a good advantage in this world. He informs the church that for those who are married, they have not violated the law of God. They are not in sin. But his new message is for those yet to be married, he has a plea-consider remaining single. Notice how he repeats himself in v 26
It is good for a man to remain as he is. (v 26)
He already said this using the same wordage when talking about the life of celibacy for those divorced and abandoned. Now he speaks to those yet to be married, virgins if you would call them, because if they actually choose to remain celibate, they are choosing a less troubled life. Married life is troubled life in the eyes of Paul. Now do not consider this Paul railing on marriage. He is for marriage but in the particular situation to which Paul writes this letter, Paul wants the church in Corinth to see that while marriage is a blessing, it can also bring trouble.
Why is marriage trouble in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we will look at that context in a moment, but the warning in general is simple: marriage is a lifetime full of blessing but it is not easy. Like any follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into marriage, one must consider the costs. A person must understand the duties and responsibilities that God has called both husband and wife to. Young people, if marriage is on your 5 year plan, what have you studied now about the responsibilities of husbands and wives? Are you equipped now before you drive the car or are you going to learn as you go. Trouble has a particular meaning for Paul but generally, the trouble of marriage is a reality because husband and wife, although redeemed are also sinful.
Dave Harvey might have the one of the best titled books I have ever heard on marriage....When Sinners Say I Do. He writes
“You might be curious about a guy who would write a book called When Sinners Say “I Do.” My name is Dave and . . . well . . . I’m a sinner. Saying “I do” twenty-five years ago to my beautiful wife not only didn’t solve that problem, it magnified it times ten. Engaged people can sometimes wonder whether “I do” holds a magical power that charms us into selfless and instinctively caring people. It doesn’t. Would I have said, “I do” if I knew what “I do” really meant? Without a doubt. Would the grin in my wedding pictures have been less self-confident and more, how shall I say it, desperate? Most assuredly!”
Harvey, Dave. When Sinners Say "I Do" . Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
What Harvey goes on to teach, is that the more we grasp the idea of what types of sinners we are as individuals and the sin we bring into our marriage, the more we take our focus off ourselves and place it on the only hope we have- Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, the greatest trouble of marriage is the sin we bring into it. Therefore, generally trouble is the result of sin in this world and the individuals who battle the curse of sin everyday. Young people, count the cost. Marriage is glorious but do not be misled, it also have struggles and calamity and only in Christ’s love and salvation can you endure those hardships with hope.
2. A Context Considered (v. 29-31)
2. A Context Considered (v. 29-31)
29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
We have to go back to then to Paul’s words in v 25 remaining unmarried is “good....because of the present distress.” This sounds like it needs more explanation.
How about v 28, “you will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.” The literal wording here is “affliction or tribulation in the flesh.” This raises greater concern and gives more light to the “present distress” that is literally a great affliction to those the physical state of believers in the church. Followers of Jesus in Corinth are suffering physically for some reason and Paul is stating that entering marriage in this state of calamity should be wisely discerned because great trouble might come from it.
Let me ask you to consider two possibilities to the “present distress” that Paul is referencing :
30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
Paul here is alluding to many in the Corinthian church who have befallen illnesses and have died. Paul sees that connection as judgment from God for their sin and abuses of the Lord’s supper. But what causes their deaths. Archeology and history records reveal that famines were one of the greatest struggles in Corinth and the surrounding areas during the early church period. Commentators logically imply that these present distress that Paul alludes to in 7:25, ones that may have been the reason for those getting sick and dying in the church.
Bruce Winter writes an excellent research paper on the Corinthian Famines of the first century that shed some clarification on what distresses Paul might have been alluding to. if this is the case, then we can understand why Paul uses the term in verse 28, tribulation or distress. This is Paul word for the effects of the end of the age that began when Christ rose from the grave and asecended into heaven. Jesus stated,
7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
When you combine that prophecy from the Lord with the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 11:28 which states
28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius.
Claudius ruled from 41 Ad-54Ad which would be right before the writing of 1 Corinthians letter by Paul in 55AD. If famine is the reason for Paul’s message, then one might understand why Paul would write such a message to those considering but are not yet married. Trouble in this life is enough, but remember that Paul calls it literally, “affliction of the flesh.”
Another use of Paul’s word distress or tribulation can be linked to persecution of the early church. Also prophesied by the Lord Jesus in the previous Matt 24 passage, persecution was promised for God’s people. John Macarthur states in his commentary on 1 Corinthians that persecution could be distress that would dissuade marriage because of the rate in which Christians were being killed by the enemies of Christ. Macarthur writes,
Paul seemed to sense the coming terrible Roman persecutions, the first of which would begin under Nero some ten years after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. That emperor refined torture to a diabolical art, and his name became synonymous with sadistic cruelty. He had Christians sewn up in animal skins and thrown before wild dogs to be torn apart and eaten. Other believers were dressed in clothes soaked in wax, tied to trees, and set on fire—to become human candles for his garden.
Corinth itself would furnish one of the early Christian martyrs. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Erastus, the treasurer of that city (Rom. 16:23) and probably a convert of Paul’s, was martyred
John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 179.3. A Reason Recognized (v. 32-35)
Both famine and persecution are viable contexts to the exhortation from Paul for young people to think deeply about marriage and the trouble that they may face in the present and future. How can a marriage truly flourish and blossom if death from famine or persecution is a reality. Paul saw these two events as pointing to the end of days. The time of Christ when sufferings and disasters will not only purge the world of evil and sin but it will be a testing ground for genuine faith in Christ. This is the idea that Paul is communicating in v 29 and v 31,
(29)“The form of this world is passing away, (31)the time has been shortened. “
Now consider it in a current context, if COVID had a different outcome. Consider if it was worse and natural immunity and the medical battle did not prevail. What if our human immune system did not gain the victory and you had a wedding planned. If doctors and officials said plan for the worst, you have months to live. Would marriage seem that all important to the believer who knew that marriage will cease on the earth. There is no marriage in heaven as the Scriptures promise.
Some may say yes, its worth it to die together and not alone. Others would say their hope in Christ and heaven is all they need. Paul seems to lend toward the latter view.
3. A Reasonable Request
3. A Reasonable Request
32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
So to conclude today with my last point, what is Paul advocating. He is asking those who are longing for marriage, who see and understand the current crisis to view all these things in light of their devotion to the Lord. Is marriage necessary in this context? Is going to aid in your walk with Christ or be a hindrance to it?
Paul is not saying marriage in this context is sin but he instead gives the church then and now a proper framework with how to plan for marriage. Will marriage hinder our work and service to Christ, or will it magnify it?
If it does not hinder, if it magnifies the picture of Christ and the church, then be committed to Christ chiefly and let that direct the love for your spouse. Marriage is not sin!
But let those yet to enter into marriage truly count the cost and consider the work the Lord is calling you to. Do not haphazardly enter into marriage in order to fight loneliness or fulfill sexual desires. Instead, if you pursue marriage, let it first and foremost be about bringing glory to the name of Christ. Do not as Paul states forget that your “interests are divided.” You seek to please your wife and you seek to please the Lord. Make sure that pleasing the Lord is the greater of the two desires.
I would say personally that my wife is my helper. She helps me serve you as your pastor. She is not the pastor but our marital relationship serves this church better than if I was single. She graciously is my helpmate in all we do, but in particular to this passage, she does not distract me from serving the Lord, she thrusts me towards it with greater fervency.
Now we know that our marriages reflect Christ as we are chiefly devoted to him above all else.
As way of application to those already married, your duties to the marriage and family relationship is only helped or hindered in relationship with your personal time worshipping Christ. I have heard it said that your personal time reading the Scritpures, praying and serving the Lord fills up your cup that overflows to those around you. They can only be influenced towards Christ by what spills over from your overabundance of worship of Him.
If you neglect your time with Christ, because you are too busy with the affairs of this earth, then you have given attention to the wrong thing and you are dishonoring Christ. You are acting more like Martha than Mary, the two sisters with direct access to the Lord Jesus. One sat at his feet in worship and devotion to him, while the other was distracted by the cares of well-meaning but earthly trivialities. In the end, Martha missed out that day on truly spiritually knowing Christ just so she could tend to his earthly form.