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1 Corinthians 7:25-40 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 26 secs

Advantages of Being Single; 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

The main idea of the whole section from verse 25 to the end of the chapter is that there is an advantage to being single, but it is not an advantage that makes one spiritually superior. What Paul is saying is that your single status and your married status is not indicative of spirituality. You should be just as spiritual and just as effective serving the Lord if you are single or if you are married, but if you are married there are going to be other issues in life, other priorities, other responsibilities that may keep you from serving the Lord than if you were single. But don't think, therefore, that you should stay single simply to serve the Lord because that is only for those who have been so gifted. 

1 Corinthians 7:25 NASB "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 [has made] trustworthy." The verse begins in the Greek with PERI DE [peri de] which literally means "now concerning." It is a clear reference to the fact that he is changing the subject or he is addressing a new question. There were two questions related to this celibacy issue. One was, is it legitimate to stay celibate within marriage in order to be more spiritual? Then the second question had to do with just staying single without getting married and whether that was more spiritual. So he changes the subject to answer the second question related to staying single as somehow being more spiritual.

When Paul says, "I have no commandment from the Lord," there are those who go to this passage and say that here Paul is going to give his opinion, he doesn't have anything directly from the Lord so the next several verses are just expressing Paul's opinion and it is not a mandate from the Lord. That, of course, is a violation of what the Scriptures teach regarding inerrancy. Notice this section from v. 25 to v. 40 brings up the same issue of inspiration and his authority. In v. 40 at the very end he says, "I think that I also have the Spirit of God." The point that he is making is that his judgment isn't just an informed opinion, it isn't based on his wide experience as an apostle having travelled around the ancient world and visited many churches and observing many problems and many marriages. What he is pointing out is that the Lord did not address specific issues during the time of the Messianic age, during the time of the incarnation. The Lord did not cover everything in those three years of His public ministry. He taught on many subjects but there were many subjects that the disciples were not ready to hear and many subjects that they weren't prepared for, and those subjects would be addressed in the apostolic period through the writings of the apostles.

Remember that all of the writings of the New Testament are inspired, that is, breathed out by God. In our definition of inspiration we state: God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture that without waiving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings, or any other human factor, His complete and coherent message to mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.

When we give that definition we emphasise the fact that the member of the Trinity that was primarily responsible for the giving of Scripture, for revelation, is God the Holy Spirit. Somehow he overrode the writers of Scripture in such a way that he could direct them to write that which he intended to have written. He could guarantee that it was free from any error, but in the process it is not a dictation theory. He doesn't dictate what they are to write.

As Paul addresses this subject he is going to give six reasons for someone to remain single. He is not saying it is wrong to marry or that it is wrong to remain single; one is not superior to the other in any spiritual sense. However, there are practical values to being single because it allows one to serve the Lord in a more dedicated manner. So he gives six reasons and this is the basic outline of these verses from 25 to 40. He says that it is better to remain single because of the pressure of persecution and adversity in the cosmic system—covered in vv. 25-27. In v. 28 he says it is also better to remain single because of the problems of additional responsibility. Third, because of the temporary nature of this life, vv. 29-31. Fourth, there are pressures of priority, vv. 32-35. Fifth, because of the faithfulness of fathers toward daughters, vv. 36-38. Then because of the seriousness of marriage, vv.39, 40.

In the first section, vv. 25-27, his point is that single status has great benefit when you are in the midst of some great catastrophe or pressure. If you were living in Poland in 1939 it would be better to be single than to be married with children because in the midst of the war that was about to come, because if you were married you would be distracted, would have the cares of wife and children, and this would be a tremendous burden of responsibility. This is the idea here. He recognizes that during this age, especially at that particular time there would be persecutions, adversity from the government towards Christians. So it would be less troublesome to be single than to be married.

1 Corinthians 7:26 NASB "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." There he is emphasizing the fact that there was persecution. The letter was written during the time of Nero when there was persecution against Christians and his conclusion is that it is better during times of calamity, times of stress, to remain single. That way you have less to concern you without having family responsibilities and being worried about a wife. He uses the word HOLOS [o(loj] for "good," which has to do with good of intrinsic value. But then he is going to balance it out. He is always careful in this section because he realizes that any time he says one thing there is always an element in the group that is going to take it to the extreme and run with it in the wrong direction, so he has to constantly balance things out. The Christian life is a life based on wisdom. When you are a young believer and you don't have much doctrine in your soul and you are still operating on a lot of human viewpoint and cosmic concepts, and the sin nature is running rampant in your soul, then most of the choices that you have are choices between good and bad. But as you mature as a believer the choices aren't so much between good versus bad, sin versus obedience to the Lord, the choices are between that which is good and that which is better. In order to make those decisions you have to have a certain amount of doctrine in your soul because you have to be able to perceive what the long-term consequences can be.  

1 Corinthians 7:27 NASB "Are you [legally] bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife." Here he uses a unique word for "released," LUSO [lusw] and clearly in context it is talking about divorce, even though this is not a word that is commonly used for divorce. He uses the word here because he is going to apply it to both those who are single and don't have a wife yet and those who are divorced. So it is a broader, more general term, it is not technically a term for divorce, we get that only from the context. "Don't seek to be released," i.e. don't seek to be divorce, don't think that somehow if get rid of your wife or get rid of your husband you will be more spiritual and that you can go and serve the Lord more effectively. Don't blame your wife, don't blame your husband for the fact that you can't do certain things spiritually. Your service for the Lord is not going to be determined by your marital status. "Are you released from a wife"? could imply either being single or being divorced. Stay in your status quo.

1 Corinthians 7:28 NASB "But if you marry [3rd class condition], 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." If you have a legitimate right to remarry it isn't a sin. He is emphasizing the fact that marriage isn't a sin, singleness isn't a sin, staying single isn't more spiritual, staying married isn't more spiritual, it has a practical value. There is nothing wrong with marriage. Then he says that if you are married you are going to have certain problems that you don't have if you are single. Your spouse is going to have adversity in their life that will become your adversity. If they have health problems, or any number of problems in life, those responsibilities become your responsibilities. So you take on additional responsibilities and you can have additional problems. There is clearly additional joy and happiness as well, this is not just a negative thing. Paul is saying that there is a certain practical value to staying single, it is not a spiritual value. "I am trying to spare you" is what is called a conative present tense, that is, I am attempting to spare you this trouble and am giving you a little wise advice.  

1 Corinthians 7:29 NASB "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." Paul is relating this to the problem of time management. This is crucial in the lives of many people. Most people are extremely inefficient in the way they manage their use of time. We need to define our priorities in terms of spiritual growth, spiritual maturity and our eternal destiny, and let that determine how we spend our time, how we organize our time. It may even determine the kinds of jobs or careers that we have in this life in order to be able to fulfil these obligations. Time is a crucial issue for every one of us, we only have a certain amount of time. In fact, in Ephesians 5:16, 17 we are told to redeem the time. It is very easy to waste a lot of time and we have to take a look at how we spend our time. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be time for relaxation. We all need time to relax, to unwind, but we have to understand how to prioritise that and we have to plan our time. If we are going to be organized and accomplishing anything in life then we need to plan our time and how we are going to use it in relationship to our priorities. We can't do everything. We have to orient our time and our planning to our goals and objectives.

1 Corinthians 7:30 NASB "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." In these two verses Paul recognizes the fact that there are certain legitimate functions in life that we have to set aside sometimes in light of spiritual priorities and in light of wise principles of time management. The first one he mentions is in the area of sorrow and grief. It may be legitimate to take that time to grieve, to take that time to sorrow, but you set that aside because there is a higher priority in terms of serving the Lord. The second one he mentions is rejoicing, and that is happiness, the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of entertainment and the enjoyment of life. What happens in our culture today is that when people lose their focus on doctrine as the source of stability and happiness that they tend to replace that with a frantic search for happiness where they look to entertainment and all kinds of other distractions in order to anaesthetize the basic emptiness and pain in their lives. So they pursue pleasure and hobbies and various means of relaxation so that they don't have to ever stop and think about the ultimate realities of life. That doesn't mean that it is wrong in and of itself to be involved in playing golf or to be involved in rebuilding cars or to be involved in various sports hobbies. But if that is a distraction from higher priorities then it does become a problem. So what Paul is saying is that even though you go through life and there are many legitimate things that you can spend your time and money on they become illegitimate when it is a distraction to your spiritual life.

The third area he talks about is just economics, the pursuit of business, buying and selling. The problem for some people is the pursuit of their business, their career, that becomes such an overriding priority in their life that they really don't have time to focus on spiritual life or spiritual priorities. So the purpose of their business ultimately becomes and end in itself and not recognizing that one of the goals of business is simply to provide food, shelter and clothing for the family and also financial resources for support of the Lord's work. Once business takes over as an end in itself then it is not long before doctrine becomes a victim in that person's life and disappears as a priority in that person's life.

1 Corinthians 7:32 NASB "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" Husbands, that needs to be part of your priority: thinking about how you can please your wife. This needs to be something that characterizes a husband's thinking.

There is a difference between a wife and a virgin: [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." The word "holy" means to be set apart for the service of the Lord, so in other words, spending your time to serving the Lord as opposed to spending the time taking care of other responsibilities. The unmarried woman has more time to be serving the Lord, she has the option of being involved in a variety of different functions, supporting ministries at the local church, prayer, whatever it may be. The one who is married has to spend time thinking about her husband and taking care of her husband, understanding his strengths and his weaknesses, and supporting him. Remember the role of a wife is to be a helper and assistant to the husband in terms of their team responsibilities before the Lord in advancing in their ministry together, whatever that may be. Whatever the man is called by vocation and by spiritual calling to do by his spiritual gift the wife is to be a support for him and an assistant for him. So the husband and the wife are concerned about their spouse, taking care of their spouse and pleasing their spouse, and that takes time away from serving the Lord. So Paul's emphasis here is not on the fact that being married or being single is in and of itself more spiritual, it is just practical. [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."

In verses 36-38 the emphasis is on the responsibility of fathers in oversight for their daughters. [36] "But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin {daughter,} if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry." It is not a sin to allow her to get married. Remember, marriage and celibacy are not ends in and of themselves and do not involve inherently, spiritually superior positions. That is the background for understanding this. [37] "But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin {daughter,} he will do well." In v. 36 it is the father who allows the daughter to marry, in v. 37 this is the father who is keeping his daughter single. She needs to stay single and if that is her decision as well then he needs to protect her and provide for that. [38] "So then both he who gives his own virgin {daughter} in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better." That is a poor translation. It really emphasizes the fact that he has chosen well in that decision also. So whether they stay single or whether they get married it is not an inherently spiritual decision but it has to do with priorities and ultimate value.

Paul's final point is that staying single is superior because marriage is a permanent position. We have already recognized that there are legitimate reasons for separation and divorce, but those are viewed biblically as exceptions. The Scriptures view marriage as a permanent status.

1 Corinthians 7:39 NASB "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. [40] But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God."