Concerning the Unmarried - Page 1 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

December 19, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe


Lesson 6.4: Concerning the Unmarried
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7.25-35


1 Cor 7.25-35 (KJV)

25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.


Introduction

In this passage, Paul addresses an issue in detail that he had touched on earlier in 1 Corinthians 7.8-9. The issue was, “Does a Christian have to get married, and how about the unmarried women in the church who are not getting any younger” (see I Co 7.36). Perhaps Paul had in mind the parents of marriage-age girls. Jesus did not have anything to say about this particular topic, therefore the apostle gave his opinion like one taught by the Lord. He pointed out several things for them to consider, before getting married.

This lesson has been split into four sections:
Section 1: The personal judgment of Paul. 7:25–26.
Section 2: The prospect of tribulation. 7:27–28.
Section 3: The passing away of worldly fashions. 7:29–31.
Section 4: The problem of divided allegiance. 7:32–35.


Section 1: The personal judgment of Paul. 7:25–26.


Commentary

25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

Now concerning virgins (young women of marrying age-see notes on Chapter 6.5, verse 36)
It was a time of distress (see v 26), and society was undergoing change (see v 31). Some found it difficult to find time to serve the Lord (see v 29). There were probably economic and political pressures in Corinth that we are not aware of.

Several translations read: “Now concerning virgin daughters,” which I think is correct. That is really what he is talking about here. Paul is in the process of answering a question posed to him in a letter from the Corinthian assembly. They wanted to know whether they should continue in the same state or not, whether they should marry or not. From what Paul says next, we know that the Lord Jesus never addressed this issue.

I have no commandment of the Lord:
This does not mean that this verse is not inspired; it is just as inspired as any other verse. And Paul is correct when he says, “I have no commandment of the Lord,” because in our Lord’s instructions regarding marriage and divorce recorded in the Gospels, there is no record of His speaking directly to this issue. But Paul could have added that there is nothing mentioned concerning celibacy, or commanding persons to live a single life in the Old Testament law; but on the contrary there are many things directing and agitating to a marriage state; but the apostle did not have any command from the Lord Jesus Christ, under the Gospel dispensation, to recommend virginity; or any special orders, or peculiar revelation from the Spirit of God that would settle the argument.

This reveals that Paul knew the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He taught. However, he specifically says here that concerning virgins he has no commandment from the Lord.

yet I give my judgment,
And so, the apostle says, “yet I give my judgment.” Once again, we cannot say that his advice is less inspired than something he may or may not quote from our Lord. He is giving his opinion as a capable judge because he had obtained the mercy of God and he wanted to be

faithful to God. In other words, he possessed the qualifications a judge should have as he had told them in chapter 6. Remember, in Paul’s time the revealed word of God was incomplete. We now have the all of the revealed truth of God, and we do not need any new epistles or commandments from Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled men. Paul was a special minister to the Gentiles, and God gave him revelations and the right to give out commands and teaching as the Holy Spirit directed him. He could instruct them in what was the most advisable, convenient, and prudent to be done, considering persons, times, and circumstances. But notice that the apostle does not make use of his power and authority to make decrees, and prescribe rules, that would bind their minds; instead, he humbly and modestly gives his opinion, and in order to get them to take his advice, he adds,

as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
The meaning of this is not that he, through the goodness and mercy of the Lord, had preserved his virginity, and so he holds himself up as an example of celibacy; since it is not certain, that though the apostle was now single, that he had never been married; it seems rather that he had been married at one time, but was now single, and therefore this cannot be the gist of it. The meaning here is that the plainness, honesty, and integrity, which was apparent throughout the whole course of his life, and especially in his conversations with men; and particularly in giving advice about any matter, or declaring his opinion on any subject; greatly recommends him, and commands attention and regard for what he says. And faithfulness, in this sense is not natural; but an act of pure of grace; it is obtained not by a man's own power and strength, but by the grace and mercy of God. It is what Paul was ready to acknowledge upon all occasions: I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me, (1 Co 15:10). And it is a great mercy which those obtain from God who proves faithful in the ministry of his word.

He was a faithful apostle of Christ, and therefore his instruction was to be regarded as a rule of Christ. Though Christ had not delivered any universal law concerning virgins, He now gives instruction as an inspired apostle, one who had obtained mercy from the Lord to be faithful. Note, Faithfulness in the ministry is due to the grace and mercy of Christ.

26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

I suppose, therefore, that this is good
“I suppose” does not mean that Paul was uncertain about what to do; on the contrary, he was very sure about the principle he was going to lay down.

The Greek word kalos is used here for “good,” meaning either something that is inherently good— that is, something well adapted to its circumstances or outcome; something good in quality or beneficial in its effect.

The topic is still whether it is better for a man to marry, or remain single. The opinion of the apostle is that it was better for persons that were single to continue so. However, this did not mean that if a man was married, he should seek a divorce (see v. 27). Paul’s instruction is for the unmarried, and his reason for it follows…

for the present distress, (necessity)
The Greek word used here for “distress” means that which arises from the pressure of external circumstances—as a result of which people tend to do that which they wouldn’t do under ordinary circumstances. He could be referring to the persecution against the Church and Christians that was just beginning to come to the forefront. Christians could lose their jobs, have personal property confiscated; they could be arrested and beaten, and even lose their life. Christians were under great pressure, and that is what caused much of the distress in their lives. Added to that was the common pressures of life; raising children, providing for a family, sickness, taxes, threats of war, sorrows, cares, debt, and trials. It was a time of great affliction and distress for all who were saved by grace and wished to serve God and his kingdom. The apostle was fully aware of the present condition of the Christians at Corinth, and that is why he thought it was advisable for those who were single to remain single; since they were often forced to move from place to place, to get away from persecution. This would be difficult for those who were married, since they might have young children to take care of, and provide for: “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” (Matt 24:19; KJV). “For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck” (Luke 23:29; KJV).

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