Concerning the Unmarried - Page 3 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh:
Young men and young women, who choose to marry, are no different than anyone else, since they generally promise themselves a great deal of pleasure, but married life usually involves a great deal of trouble; and that trouble comes even where they expected the most satisfaction and delight, "in the flesh"; the body, the outward man, and external circumstances of life. This "trouble" is the same as the present trouble mentioned before; the persecutions and tribulations the saints suffer in the flesh—this may be extended to include all the sorrows, troubles, and distresses which always seem to accompany the married life.

Marriage is not in itself a sin, but marrying at that time was likely to bring persecution upon them, and therefore he thought it advisable and expedient that those who could control their sensual urges should refrain from it; but Paul would not lay the yoke of celibacy on them; and therefore says, But I spare you. Note, how the Catholics are the opposite of the apostle Paul in this! They forbid many to marry, and entangle them with vows of celibacy, whether they can bear the yoke or not. If married, Paul says, thou hast not sinned. There is nothing morally wrong with getting married. Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

but I spare you.
“But I spare you,” because I will not dwell on such a gloomy theme. I will not make you sad by describing the troubles that are coming your way. I will not do anything to discourage you from acting as you think right, for fear that you would become dejected, and fall into temptation and sin; or because of the great respect he had for the Corinthians, he gave the above advice, to keep themselves single, so that they might better bear afflictions and persecutions, and escape many of the troubles which others must endure. If you choose to marry, it is lawful; and I will not embitter your joys and hurt your feelings by describing your future difficulties and trials. The word flesh in the previous phrase denotes outward circumstances: They might have peace of mind, because religion would furnish that; but they would be exposed to poverty, persecution, and tragedy.

Section 3: The passing away of worldly fashions. 7:29–31.

29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

But this I say, brethren, the time is short:
This affectionate warning was given in the light of the insecurity, impermanence, and instability of life. Man’s time upon the earth is indeed "short" when compared with the longevity of the patriarchs. All earthly pursuits should be made and all obligations and conditions considered in the light of the tragic fact that "Upon my day of life the night is falling!" Let us not for one moment think that this principle was developed by Paul from a mistaken belief that the Second Advent was close at hand. There is not the slightest hint in this passage of Christ's second coming, except in the general sense of its being always proper for Christians to live expecting it and being prepared for it. The time of Christ's return was one point on which Jesus declared that the apostles could not be informed. It makes me tired to read the nit-picking of those esteemed theologians who teach in our universities, who are always babbling about how the apostles and the early church were mistaken about this. All of them with even elementary knowledge of what Jesus taught knew that the time of the Second Coming had not been revealed, not even to the Son of God—“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matt 24:36; KJV); and the various apostolic teachings with respect to "expecting" it were given in the light of that knowledge. Instead of a conceited gloating in their so-called "mistake" on this teaching, it would be far better for Christians today to take the same attitude as the apostles and pray, "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20); such words have exactly the same meaning for us as they had for the apostles who articulated them, and in neither case can there be any kind of "mistake"!

But this I say. Whether you are married or not, or in whatever condition of life you may be, I would remind you that life is moving quickly to a close, and that its grand business is to be prepared to die. It does not matter what condition or rank of life you are in, if we are ready to depart to another and a better world.

The time is short. The time is constricted, limited, restricted, and tight. The word which is used here is commonly applied to the act of furling a sail, i.e., gathering into a compact roll and binding securely a sail against a spar; and is then applied to anything that is reduced within narrow limits. Perhaps there was a reference here to the fact that the time was contracted, or made short, by their impending persecutions and trials. But it is always equally true that time is short. It will soon fly away, and come to a close. I am currently in the so called “golden years”, and believe me, time has never gone so fast as it has since I retired. The idea the apostle has in mind here is, that the plans of life should all be formed in view of this truth, THAT TIME IS SHORT. No plan should be adopted which does not contemplate this; no commitment of life made when it will not be appropriate to think of it; no relationship entered into when the thought, "time is short," would be an unwelcome intruder: “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7; KJV).

Some criticize Paul, or even declare him a false prophet, because he says the time is short. But Paul is true to the heart and teaching of Jesus, who told all Christians in all ages to be ready and anticipate His return. Jesus told us all in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” We are to be ready, and to regard the time as short, not only because Jesus can return at any time, but also because it cultivates a more obedient, on-fire walk with Jesus Christ. Even without considering the return of Jesus, it is worthwhile and accurate for Christians to live as if the time is short. The Psalmist expressed this attitude in Psalm 39:5: Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.

This is another reason, with which the apostle supports his advice to virgins, and unmarried persons, to remain as they are; since the time of life is so very short, and it is only a little while to the end of the world, and second coming of Christ; and therefore seeing the marriage state is so full of care and trouble, and it affords less time for the service of Christ and religion, he thought it advisable for them to continue in a single life, so they might be at leisure to make use of that little time they had for their spiritual good and welfare, the edification of others, and the glory of Christ.

it remaineth that both they that have wives
This does not mean that they are to treat their wives with unkindness or neglect, or fail in the duties of love and faithfulness. It is to be taken in a general sense, that they were to live above the world; that they were not to be overly attached to their wives; that they were to be ready to part with them; and that they should not permit attachment to them to interfere with any duty which they owed to God. They were in a world of trial and testing; and they were exposed to persecution; and as Christians they were duty-bound to live entirely for God; therefore, they should not allow attachment to earthly friends to alienate their affections from God, or to interfere with their Christian duty. In other words, they ought to be just as faithful to God, and just as pious, in every respect, as if they had no wife and no earthly friend. Such a consecration to God is difficult, but not impossible. Our earthly attachments and cares draw away our affections from God, but they do not need to do it. Instead of being the reason for alienating our affections from God, they should be the means of binding us more firmly and entirely to him and his cause. But regrettably! How many professing Christians live for their wives and children only, and not for God! How many allow these earthly objects of attachment to alienate their minds from God, rather than make them the justification for uniting more tenderly to him and his cause!

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