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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 7:25-40; Undivided

02/02 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 Undivided; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140202_1cor7_25-40.mp3

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. 36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. 39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

 1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

25 Περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων ἐπιταγὴν κυρίου οὐκ ἔχω, γνώμην δὲ δίδωμι ὡς ἠλεημένος ὑπὸ κυρίου πιστὸς εἶναι. 26 νομίζω οὖν τοῦτο καλὸν ὑπάρχειν διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην, ὅτι καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ οὕτως εἶναι. 27 δέδεσαι γυναικί ; μὴ ζήτει λύσιν· λέλυσαι ἀπὸ γυναικός ; μὴ ζήτει γυναῖκα· 28 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ γαμήσῃς, οὐχ ἥμαρτες. καὶ ἐὰν γήμῃ ἡ παρθένος, οὐχ ἥμαρτεν. θλῖψιν δὲ τῇ σαρκὶ ἕξουσιν οἱ τοιοῦτοι, ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμῶν φείδομαι. 29 τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν· τὸ λοιπὸν ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες ὦσιν, 30 καὶ οἱ κλαίοντες ὡς μὴ κλαίοντες, καὶ οἱ χαίροντες ὡς μὴ χαίροντες, καὶ οἱ ἀγοράζοντες ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες, 31 καὶ οἱ χρώμενοι τὸν κόσμον ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι· παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. 32 Θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀμερίμνους εἶναι. ὁ ἄγαμος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ· 33 ὁ δὲ γαμήσας μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί, 34 καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι· ἡ δὲ γαμήσασα μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί. 35 τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ εὔσχημον καὶ εὐπάρεδρον τῷ κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως. 36 Εἰ δέ τις ἀσχημονεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ νομίζει ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος, καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι, ὃ θέλει ποιείτω· οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει· γαμείτωσαν. 37 ὃς δὲ ἕστηκεν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἑδραῖος μὴ ἔχων ἀνάγκην, ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἔχει περὶ τοῦ ἰδίου θελήματος, καὶ τοῦτο κέκρικεν ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ καρδίᾳ, τηρεῖν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον, καλῶς ποιήσει· 38 ὥστε καὶ ὁ γαμίζων τὴν παρθένον ἑαυτοῦ καλῶς ποιεῖ, καὶ ὁ μὴ γαμίζων κρεῖσσον ποιήσει. 39 Γυνὴ δέδεται ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ζῇ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς· ἐὰν δὲ κοιμηθῇ ὁ ἀνήρ, ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ᾧ θέλει γαμηθῆναι, μόνον ἐν κυρίῳ· 40 μακαριωτέρα δέ ἐστιν ἐὰν οὕτως μείνῃ, κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην, δοκῶ δὲ κἀγὼ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἔχειν.

Review

Today we are going to jump back in to our verse by verse study of 1 Corinthians. We left off in the middle of chapter 7, so before we pick back up, it will be helpful for us to review where we are in this ruthlessly practical New Testament letter.

Paul addresses the church in Corinth, those called to be saints. He thanks God for the grace that was given to them in Christ Jesus. He expresses his confidence in the faithfulness of God that God will sustain them to the end guiltless.

Then he gets right to work addressing some of the major problems in this church. First on his list is division. There were some in the church who claimed to be wise, super-spiritual, mature, and who needed a sound rebuke from the apostle to level their pride and divisive party spirit. He points them to the fact that God chose the foolish, the weak, the low and despised, the nobodies, so that no human being might boast in his presence. He brings them back to the foolish simplicity of the good news of a crucified Messiah. He outlines the role of leadership in the church as a role of service; a field-hand laboring in God’s field, a brick-layer constructing a building on the one foundation, a custodian of God’s truth who must be found trustworthy by his Master. In chapter 5, he addresses other issues that he heard were happening in the church. Open sexual immorality was being tolerated, and he demands that the church step up and exercise church discipline to purge the evil person from among them. Chapter 6 addresses believers airing their grievances with other believers in the secular courts. He tells them that the church is fully equipped to settle minor disputes and says that they would be better off to be be defrauded than to take a brother to court.

Toward the end of chapter 6 he holds up the value of the physical body, that it is meant for the Lord, was purchased by the Lord, that our bodies are members of Christ, that our purpose is to glorify God in our bodies, that our physical bodies are to be a temple for the Holy Spirit, and that these physical bodies will be resurrected. In light of this, sexual immorality is absolutely incompatible with the Christian life.

In chapter 7, he takes up some questions that the Corinthians had sent to him in a letter. It seems that the governing principle the church in Corinth was attempting to apply to every relationship situation was ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman’. Some in Corinth were pushing celibacy on everyone as the more spiritual way to live.

Paul gives them a new principle ‘remain as you are’, and he gives them advice on how to carefully and sensitively apply this differently to different people in different situations. Paul begins by addressing those who are married, and says that it is not only good, but mandatory that they have regular sexual relations. Celibacy is not an option if you are already married. He mentions that singleness as also good, but the deciding factor is the unique way in which God has gifted each one.

Addressing formerly married people he tells them it is good to remain single, but if they do not have the gift of celibacy, then it is better to remarry. To believers married to believers, his instruction is not to separate, but if they do, to remain unmarried and pursue reconciliation. To those with an unbelieving spouse he says it is best to remain with them, but if the unbelieving spouse separates, to peacefully cooperate with the separation. In verses 17-24 he uses the radical scenarios of circumcision and slavery to illustrate his principle ‘remain as you were called’. Our identity comes from Christ, not from social or marital status. Our contentment comes from the gospel, not from external circumstances. That catches us up to where we are.

In verse 25, he addresses another category of people in relation to the marriage question, the betrothed, literally the virgins, and then in verses 39-40 the widows. Let’s look at what he says.

No Command From The Lord

25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have taken this to mean that what Paul says in this passage is merely his own private opinion and we are free to disagree with him. He clearly is giving advice that differs with different circumstances, and he does clearly allow latitude within bounds for each person to make their own decisions. But he is not saying that this chapter is not inspired scripture. Back in verse 10 he said ‘not I but the Lord’, meaning that he could point to specific sayings of Jesus as the basis for his teaching. In verse 12 he says ‘I, not the Lord’, meaning that this issue is something Jesus did not speak to directly, so Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is giving authoritative teaching on something Jesus did not address. That is what he re-states here. ‘I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.’ Paul’s judgment is trustworthy. He ends this passage with a sarcastic statement pointed at those in Corinth who think of themselves as super-spiritual; “And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” As an apostle of the Lord Jesus, he speaks authoritatively. In verse 17 he says ‘This is my rule in all the churches.’ But notice, Paul is acutely aware that he is who he is by the mercy of God. Paul is a recipient of mercy. It is by the Lord’s mercy that he, a former persecutor of the church, found himself in the dirt, blinded physically, but with eyes finally opened to see Jesus for who he really is. Paul never forgot that he is who he is by the unmerited mercy of God.

The Present Distress

25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned.

Paul’s judgment is that it is good to remain as you are. His judgment comes in view of the present distress. This is critically important to understand, otherwise we would make scripture contradict scripture. When God created man in Genesis, he said ‘it is not good that the man should be alone’ (2:18). Paul himself, writing to Timothy, said “I would have younger widows marry” (1Tim.5:14). But to the Corinthians, in view of the present distress, he says ‘remain as you are’. What is the present distress? We don’t know. Some think that the present distress is what began with the crucifixion of Jesus and will last until he comes again. Jesus told his followers ‘in the world you will have tribulation’ (Jn.16:33). But that would not account for the difference in his instruction between 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. Some think that he is referring to the persecution under emperor Nero that would be unleashed within 15 years of writing this letter, where Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth would be among the first to be martyred. (AD.67, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). There is evidence of famines that would have affected Corinth. Acts 11:28 predicts a great famine that took place in the days of Claudius (AD 41-54), shortly before the writing of this letter. Whatever the situation, there was some present distress that made singleness a wise option. As Leon Morris put it ‘when high seas are raging it is no time for changing ships’. Jesus, speaking of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, said:

Luke 21:23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.

If your daughter’s fiancee is about to be shipped off to war, and the likelihood is that he will not return, do you advise them to hurry up and get married before he leaves? These are difficult questions. Paul’s advice is ‘Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.’ Remain as you are. But he makes it clear ‘if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned’. Although it may not be wise to marry under distressful circumstances, it is not a sin.

Worldly Troubles

He goes on to give another reason for remaining single:

28 …Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.

Paul says that those who marry will have worldly trouble. His desire is to spare them trouble. The word means pressure, affliction, anguish, burden. This is a verse that is seldom used in wedding ceremonies, a promise not often memorized or held dearly. ‘Those who marry will have worldly trouble.’ You need to know this if you are contemplating marriage. Marriage means trouble. Two sinners placed in intimate proximity with one another means trouble. Marriage is blessed, sanctifying, stretching, maturing, healthy trouble, but in times of distress, it may be more trouble than you need.

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

These instructions from the apostle are deeply challenging. I want to come back to some of these verses next week so that we can give them the time they deserve.

Divided Interests

Paul gives a third reason for remaining unmarried.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Keep in mind as you read these verses what Paul has said earlier; if you do marry you have not sinned. It is not a sin to marry. It is not a sin to seek to please your spouse. If you are married, you must seek to please your wife. The married woman must seek to please her husband. What Paul said at the beginning of the chapter lays out the mutual obligation of husband to wife and wife to husband. It is sin to deprive one another. It is good and right for married people to seek to please each other. Paul’s concern is that with marriage comes divided interests, divided devotions, divided cares. If you are married, you have obligated yourself to care for your spouse, to meet her needs, to seek her pleasure. As a follower of Jesus, our primary aim is to please our Master. These two can come into tension. Devotion to Christ is primary. The responsibilities of marriage can dilute devotion to Christ. Marriage divides time and energy and resources between serving Jesus and serving your spouse. This is not necessarily sinful. It may be. But it does not have to be. It is right to expend those things in your marriage. But because none of us have unlimited resources, what you give to your mate you take away from the Lord. Paul is promoting undivided devotion to the Lord. ‘His interests are divided.’ But he is careful to say that this is for your benefit,not to lay a noose around your neck. Carefully consider your own calling, your gifting. If you have been given the gift of celibacy, whether temporarily or long-term, praise God! Use that gift in undivided devotion to the Lord. If you have not been given the gift of celibacy, do not attempt to live single long term. That would be a noose around your neck, and it would not result in undivided devotion to Christ.

To Marry or Not To Marry

Paul comes back from exploring the advantages of singleness to the question at hand and gives specific instructions to the betrothed. There is some ambiguity in the original that has caused translators to translate this passage differently. The question is who is the ‘he’ and who is ‘his virgin’. There are three main ways this passage has been understood. One runs so counter to everything Paul says in this passage, and is so anachronistic that I won’t waste your time with it. Some view the ‘he’ as the father of ‘his virgin daughter’ and the question is whether he should give her away in marriage, or keep her celibate for her whole life. There are some major problems with this understanding. It seems to make the most sense of the language and fit the context best to see the ‘he’ as the man who is betrothed, and ‘his virgin’ as the woman he is betrothed to. In view of the present distress, because of worldly troubles and divided interests, the betrothed couple is contemplating whether or not to follow through with marriage.

36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.

Paul again points to God’s gifting as determinative on what they should do. ‘If his (or her) passions are strong and it has to be’ would indicate that they do not have the gift of celibacy. This would increase the temptation to ‘not behave properly toward his betrothed’, and Paul’s advice is ‘let them marry – it is no sin’.

On the other side, if he is ‘firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined in his heart’; this would tend to indicate the gift of celibacy. He does well to keep her as his virgin. Paul sums up ‘So then, he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage (assuming the gift of celibacy) will do even better. It is better, if you are able, to remain single. But you do well if you marry.

Widows

Paul concludes with specific instructions for widows.

39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

The marriage bond is ’till death do us part’ or ‘as long as we both shall live’. In Romans 7, Paul uses the temporary earthly nature of marriage as an illustration of freedom from the law to bear fruit for God through our crucifixion with Christ.

Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Marriage is binding until the death of the spouse. Some have promoted singleness for widows as a higher plane of spirituality. But Paul says she is free. She is free to be married to whom she wishes. The only constraint he places on a widow is ‘only in the Lord’. A widow must not willingly enter into the dilemma of verses 12-16 where there is a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. The only reason to ever be in a marriage between an unbeliever and a believer is that both of you were unbelievers when you married, and then one of you heard the good news about Jesus and believed, and the other has not yet believed. For any believer looking toward marriage this one rule applies: ‘only in the Lord’.

Paul holds up the value of single-minded devotion to Christ one last time. “Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” There is unique joy to be found in undivided devotion to our Lord Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 2, 2014 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , ,

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