Concerning the Unmarried - Page 6 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
You and I are in the world, not of the world; but this doesn’t mean that we are to walk around with an attitude toward the world of touch not, taste not, handle not. We are to use this world. I live in South Carolina, and I am awed by the forests that surround my little town. I use them—they bless my heart. I enjoy them. But I don’t fall down and worship any one of those trees! We are to use the things of this world but not abuse them. We are not to substitute them for the Creator.
The warning here is that we are not to abuse the world. The sense of it is not to use too much, too freely, and in an evil way that would abuse the world. It means that we are not to use it to excess; we are not to make it a mere matter of indulging our appetites, or to make that the main object and purpose of our living. We are not to give our appetites to excess or our bodies to lustful pursuits; our days and nights to fine dining and carousing. Mary and Martha had a visit from Jesus one day, and Martha was overwhelmed with all the preparations, according to Luke 10.40-42: “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me…And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things…But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Mary had the right idea; she sat at Jesus feet and listened to what He had to say; while Martha was only concerned with dinner. Don’t get me wrong, Martha was not wrong in wanting to provide Jesus with a good meal; but she had her priorities wrong. It reminds me of something I read: “As the planets while turning on their own axis, yet revolve round the sun; so while we do our part in our own worldly sphere, God is to be the center of all our desires.”
We all have to use the world; but we must not misuse it. That is the charge here.
for the fashion of this world passeth away.
In 1 John 2:17, it is said that "the world passeth away and the lust thereof." The word "fashion" as it is used here is probably taken from the gaudy, shifting scenes of the drama; where, when the scene changes, the actors along with their imposing and splendid pageantry, passes off the stage. The form or fashion of the world is like a fabulous and constantly changing pageant. It is unreal and illusive. It lasts for only a little while; and then the scene changes, and the things that allured and enticed us pass away, and new actors and new scenes take their place. A similar idea is presented in the well-known and beautiful description by a great British dramatist: "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts." If this is the nature of the scenes in which we are engaged, how little should we set our affections on them, and how anxious should we be to be prepared for the real and unchanging scenes of another world!
The fashion of this world passeth away means the appearance, of the world, passeth away. It changes every day. It is in a continual flux. It is not so much a world as it is the appearance of one. All is show, there is nothing solid in it; and it is a transitory show too, and will quickly be gone. How proper and powerful an argument is this to enforce the former advice! How irrational is it to be affected with the images, the fading and transient images, of a dream! Surely man walketh in a vain show (Ps. 39:6), in an image, amidst the faint and vanishing appearances of things. And should he be deeply affected by such a scene?
After this world is burnt up, a new one, having a new form and fashion, will arise, in much more beauty and glory. It will be a new world with many new ways: there will be no more marrying, or giving in marriage, no more buying and selling, no more adversity and sorrow (and every other earthly activity); it will be all over and it will be as though they never occurred. These scenes will be all removed, and a new face of things will appear: therefore the apostle reminds us that our conduct and behavior, must be right and good.
Do the things of this life control your life, or does Christ control your life? This is what Paul is talking about.
Now he goes back to a discussion of marriage.
Section 4: The problem of divided allegiance. 7:32–35.
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:
But I would have you without carefulness.
Paul tells the Corinthian believers that he does not want them to be embarrassed by worldly cares; in fact, he says “But I want you to be without carefulness.” Without a doubt, carelessness is a fault; but a wise concern about worldly interests is a duty; but to be careful (full of care), to have an anxious and perplexing concern about them, is a sin. Now, I believe I can truthfully say that I don’t know anyone who is NOT, at one time or another, worried about something; it’s a sign of the times we live in. And during the First Century, Christians were being persecuted and the stress level was running high among believers, and that is the reason he addressed the subject at this time.
This is another reason why Paul preferred the single state, and advised virgins and unmarried men to stay unmarried. The married state is full of cares—worry, trouble, problems, anxiety, fear, and tension—but the single life is not burdened as much by such things; and therefore he wishes them to continue in a single state. The single man is not as likely to be anxious, and distracted by earthly things, things relating to respectability and providing for a family, and he will have more free time that can be used in the service of God. Jesus knew that the cares of the world would be a problem for His Church, and He addressed that issue with godly wisdom: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?...Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?...Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?...And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin…And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matt 6:25-30; KJV).
careth for the things that belong to the Lord,
"The things of the Lord;" are the things of religion. He that is unmarried is not distracted by the cares of this life; his time is not absorbed, and his affections divided, by the responsibilities and concerns of raising a family, and especially by concern for them in times of sickness and persecution. He can focus all his attention on religion, because he doesn’t have to worry about changing the baby’s diapers or going out to buy food for the family. He is free to give his mind, body, and spirit to the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. Paul's own example showed that this was the course which he preferred; and he also showed that in some instances it was lawful and proper for a man to remain unmarried, and to give himself entirely to the work of the Lord. But the Divine commandment—“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen 1:28; KJV)—and the approval and commendation given to marriage in the Scriptures, show that it was not God’s intention that celibacy should be the common condition of men and women.
In the light of the above, Paul notes that a person who is married has a problem with divided allegiance. As for the unmarried men; he “careth for the things that belong to the Lord.”
how he may please the Lord:
The Lord is pleased with any service done for Him, provided that it is done in faith, from a principle of love, and a desire to bring glory to Him, and do good for the condition of men and promote the Gospel for their salvation. These things are pleasing to the Lord; but they are not a means to eternal life, though they are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and will be taken notice of with approbation, and rewarded with grace on another day.
The principle here is: “The unmarried have the potential to please God with less distraction.”