Last Thoughts on Marriage: Marriage In Troubled Times

Last Thoughts: Marriage In Troubled Times

© 2024 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 7:25-30

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.

1st Corinthians 7:31-40

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. 36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

Introduction: What is Paul saying about Marriage, here?

We always want to compare scripture with scripture; We saw earlier that God ordained marriage in Genesis 2:24. God blesses it still today, (Hebrews 13:4. ) We also see that it is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church, in Ephesians 5:31, 32. In fact, in verse two of this same chapter, Paul said “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have  his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” Paul already gave full approval!

So, then, why does it seem that Paul now suggests that “believers are better off to stay single?” Is that even the point of the context?

Notice that, in verse 26, Paul prefaces the entire following passage with the phrase, “…this is good for the present distress…” (WHAT “present distress?” What does he mean?)

Temporary Distress Can Temporarily Change our Priorities.

When all is well in a transoceanic flight, the passengers may care about which in-flight meal they are to receive. They may be slightly concerned with what in-flight video is offered. But if an engine seems to be failing, no one cares about the “comfort” issues for the moment! They are only concerned with survival. For the immediate future, their priorities have changed!

In Matthew 24:19 Jesus said that a time will come , during the great tribulation, when to be pregnant or to be a nursing mother will be a very dangerous thing. The “present distress” of that time will be the trauma of the Great Tribulation.

The “present distress” in Corinth (at that time) was that the Temple of Aphrodite was the center of their civilization. It was on the highest peak of the city, and it dominated the skyline from any part of the city. At that time, (according to Encyclopedia Britannica,) it boasted a staff of 10,000 temple prostitutes, both male and female. It attracted people from all over . It was almost certainly a “trading house” for every kind of disease, as well as the gross immorality involved.

How Did This Become Such a Problem?

There was a very narrow, low isthmus at Corinth, between the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. They used teams of Oxen to hauil ships out on log rollers. It was cheaper and safer to drag ships across the isthmus than to sail around the coast. So, most trading ships stopped there, just for economy and safety in their travels.

And, naturally, their crews often took a port-liberty while the ship was being transported across the neck of land. Sailors from all over the known world came up from the port area, walking through the city to approach the Temple of Aphrodite and everything it entailed. Whatever diseases they brought with them were also spread there in Corinth, to be passed along to anyone else who practiced this sin.

This was the depraved society into which the fledgling church at Corinth had been born. There, in the midst of them, was the biggest “house of ill repute” in history, and it enjoyed the full approval of everyone except these born-again children of God.

They had become outcasts within their own society, but Paul did NOT tell them to “pack up and leave town:” Paul told them to live holy lives, separated from the wickedness of the world.

So, then, within the context of that situation, we address the continued question about marriage.

Under What Circumstances Might Marriage Be a “Bad Idea?”

Paul suggests that under the circumstances the Corinthian believers were enduring, marriage might be a questionable option. In a culture so soaked in immorality and (probably) sexually transmitted diseases, how likely are you to find a “safe” marriage prospect? And how likely is your spouse to share your desire to live for the Lord?

Paul has already shown that, in general, marriage is a good idea, because it provides a moral, legal, and safe outlet for normal, God-given human desires. And in other places, as we said earlier, he confirms that marriage was God’s plan before sin entered the world. It was and is a holy gift from a Holy God.

But, he now says that because of the corruption of the human race, we need to think carefully before we plunge into marriage. He hastens to tell us that, regardless of the “present distress” it is not a sin to marry. He warns, though, that it will not be an easy life: There will be heartaches and hazards, along the way.

In What Way Does Marriage Change Our Walk with God?

In my case, marriage has absolutely enhanced my walk with God. My wife is my very best friend and companion and my very best help in all things, including my spiritual life.

However, I remember that when we were first married, in August of 1981, there was a sharp economic downturn, nationwide, and I lost my job, along with millions of others. Had I been single, “footloose, and fancy-free,” as they used to say, I could have drifted across the country looking for work, and probably I would have suffered little stress. I would have said, “The Lord is faithful! He will provide!” (And it was true!)

However, as a new husband, with a lovely young wife expecting our first child, I failed to think “The Lord is Faithful! He will supply!” I felt that it was my responsibility to care for my wife and child and to earn the money for their upkeep. And I was failing to trust the Lord.

I was not “cheerfully waiting on the Lord, while actively seeking work.” I was actively seeking work, and obsessing over where I could earn money for our groceries and housing. My first waking thought. every morning, and my last waking thought, every night, was “What can I do to earn some money?!”

My Focus Had Changed!

I was not resting in Christ at all! Now, was that Ann’s fault? Of course, not! I had allowed my focus to become redirected to my own strength instead of God’s supply. That was my fault, no one else’s! But the context was that of a newlywed couple in a harsh economy. I was distracted by the rigors of unemployment and my unrelenting responsibility.

Keep in mind that God has assigned that responsibility! He does hold me accountable for how I care for my family! But He also says, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” He says, “Be anxious for nothing, but, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

And I was totally missing the mark by ignoring those promises. I had no peace because I was not willing to trust God for the needs of my family. I chose to think that my responsibility somehow negated God’s promises.

Don’t Allow Marriage Or The World To Alter Your Relationship With Christ

Verses 29-31 tell us that married or unmarried, in joy or tragedy, in business or in pleasure of any kind, we are not to allow circumstances or relationships to interfere with our walk with God. This is one reason he later says to not be “unequally yoked” together with unbelievers.

But verses 32-35 tell us that the whole issue is about being distracted and weighed down by our cares. Paul says God desires that we be able to avoid unnecessary distractions.

He admits that there may come a time when, despite the circumstances, marriage is a wise choice, to avoid other issues; A man may begin to behave inappropriately toward a young woman to whom he is attracted. That may be a “red flag” that he probably should marry her, rather than continuing to court disaster.

What About a Widow?

Paul says a widow is “freed” from her husband. He says she is free to remarry, provided the new man is also a believer. But Paul concludes that his personal opinion is that she will be happier in the long run if she can learn to live cheerfully without a husband.

Why? Because she has been “set free” from what may or may not have been a profitable relationship, and she may find, given a little time, that she feels happier and freer alone. This is certainly true if the alternative is to marry someone who will not treat her as Christ treats the Church (See Ephesians 5:26.)

So…Is This “Just Paul’s Opinion?” Or Is It God’s Word?

Some teachers insist that passages such as this (along with 1st Corinthians 7:10-12) are “not authoritative.” They teach that “this was just Paul’s opinion.”

I choose to believe when God said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2nd Timothy 3:16, 17) that He meant “ALL!

It is just fine for God to give “Law” in some areas, “Guidance” in other areas, and “Full freedom of choice” in others.

But if there are portions of the scripture that are truly not His Word, then I am in trouble, as it means I will have to either declare myself to be the arbiter of what “is or is not His inspired Word,  or I will have to find someone else who claims to have that wisdom. (I know I do not possess inerrant wisdom. My experience and God’s Word both tell me that other humans are not reliable, either.) Ultimately, I am forced to make a choice: Believe God, or believe someone else!

I choose to believe what God says. It is God’s Word!

He tells us what the issues were in Corinth, and why “sometimes” marriage may not be a safe bet. But sexual sin is always wrong! So, he has given us a set of choices and tells us that, while it is not a sin to marry, a Godly Single Life might be a better plan in some cases. Paul outlined the “Pros and Cons,” but he leaves the choice up to us.

God Leaves Us With Choices, Too!

Throughout the scriptures, God gave commands, some to specific people, some to all believers. But He also taught principles for living: He gave solid, wise counsel by which we can make good choices, and have better lives for having made those good choices. Finally, He gave each person a choice: You can heed His counsel or ignore it.

He offers Salvation to all: Eternal life, based on the simple choice of Believing His Promise or rejecting it. You can either believe Him or not.

To all who have chosen to believe His promise, and who have received His gift of eternal life, He still offers a choice: walk with Him in obedience; or fail to do so. To those who choose to serve Him, He adds reward to their redemption. All those who follow His advice invariably find it to be wise and good.

He has told us the consequences of our bad choices. God warned us from the very beginning that Sin results in death. He allowed Adam to make a choice that affected the entire human race.

Your choices will not be as earthshaking as Adam’s choice was. But your choices will have consequences, for good or evil. And He leaves those choices to you!

Lord Jesus, help us to learn from Your Word: Help us to make Godly choices, so as to honor You with our lives and thus to have Your Blessing.

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