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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
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Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 7:25.
1 Corinthians 7
25: Now concerning virgins (engaged women), I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy (His apostle).
26: I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.
27: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
28: But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
Back at 7:12 Paul said “I (not the Lord) say to the rest of you: This does not deny the divine inspiration of his words. He simply means: “This is not part of the revelation I have received from the Lord.” In verse 25, he confirms this explanation by his statement: Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord…
Some argue that since these are Paul’s words and not the Lord’s they carry no “weight.”
But Scripture says something totally different. Everything in Paul’s letters was divinely inspired as emphasized in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:16, where Peter calls all Paul’s writings, “Scripture,” which the untaught and unstable (people) distort (twist) as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
The phrase “Now concerning” takes us back to 7:1 where Paul begins answering the Corinthians questions. In this particular section, he is addressing those who are engaged to be married. Paul’s opening remarks make it clear that he is giving an inspired opinion on the matter of singleness. The revelation Paul received from the risen Lord did not include the subject of marriage, so the counseling the Corinthians are receiving from Paul on this topic does not fall under the heading of a command from the Lord.
Bear in mind that Paul’s advice or judgment was based on the conditions at Corinth at that time and it wasn’t a picnic, as verse 26 points out: I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is… But if you’re able to discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3), then you’re aware the circumstances in Corinth aren’t that different from today. Our social fabric is collapsing and America’s morals continue to decay at an alarming rate, so these suggestions from Paul are more appropriate than many people are willing to admit.
The key to understanding why Paul said this is the phrase, “the present distress.”
In these verses Paul recommends singleness in light of the challenging circumstances in Corinth and elsewhere. In verse 7:26 he speaks of the present distress and in verse 7:28 he refers to trouble in this life. It’s likely these phrases are referring to a couple of things. I found the following information in an encyclopedia and The New Complete Works of Josephus.
1) There was a famine occurring in Corinth and other parts of the Roman world. (See the Famines under Claudius who reigned from 41-54 AD) The Apostle Luke’s account in Acts 11:27-28 refer to the famine of 45 AD which was particularly centered in Judea. The historian Josephus writes about this famine as well: (Antiquities 20.2.5 49-53). The third famine is the one we draw our attention to. It centered in Greece in about 50 AD. Scripture informs us Paul was taking up a famine relief collection for Jerusalem at 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.
2) The present distress also refers to the persecution raging against God’s church and the prospect that this will increase as time marches on. Paul’s concern for the Corinthian saints is evidenced here: Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
Let’s go to verses 29-33.
1 Corinthians 7
29: But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none;
30: and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess;
31: and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
32: But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;
33: but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.
Paul said: the time has been shortened; and by this he means to say the last days or that time period prior to the rapture of God’s Church, an event that precedes the coming Tribulation period. We’ve been living in the last days since the Lord Jesus Christ’s first advent (Hebrews 1:2). Paul’s phrase agrees with the other comments he made in his letters concerning the Lord’s imminent return. Paul had no idea that this current dispensation would last two thousand years. He fully expected to be alive when the Lord returned for His church (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). So, this is Paul describing conditions that are going to grow progressively worse and then come to a climax during the Great Tribulation period or the latter half of the Tribulation.
I think we’re ready for verses 34-35 now.
1 Corinthians 7
34: and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgins, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married in concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35: This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Here Paul acknowledges that married people are concerned about their spouse, and their children in some circumstances, and rightly so. If not, someone is going to find themselves in the proverbial “dog-house.” Marriage isn’t easy; it’s work, ask anyone who is married. Marriage requires energy, sacrifice, and time from both partners. You may have heard it said that marriage is a 50-50 proposition, but I’m here to tell you that if you want a happy marriage and a happy home-life both the husband and the wife will need to contribute 100% each and every day.
Paul’s point is the marriage relationship can keep the husband and wife from devoting themselves to Jesus Christ, which means He is no longer the Main Thing in their lives. For example, they must balance their devotion to their spouse, their children, their work or careers (you have to have money or it all comes crashing down around you – Amen) and the Lord gets the “leftovers” of your time, energy, and effort. Who hasn’t fallen asleep at night in the midst of their prayers, for instance? Paul said this throws their lives out of balance - but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. This is why Paul advised the Corinthians to remain as he was, single; it has multiple advantages over the married life.
Let’s go to verses 36-40.
1 Corinthians 7
36: But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter,
If she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.
37: But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.
38: So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
Please note the word daughter appears in each of the verses above in italics. This means the word was added to the text by the translators to help the reader. I mention this because I believe it confuses an already difficult passage of Scripture. People have interpreted the phrase any man… toward his virgin daughter in one of three ways:
1) A believing father and his unmarried daughter (NASB)
2) A believing man and his fiancée (NKJV)
3) A type of spiritual marriage (NEB)
Working through this, option one picks up Paul’s words in 7:36 and shows that the father might be acting unbecomingly (unreasonably or unfairly) toward his unmarried daughter “If she is past her youth,” and having fallen in love with a man, evidently, has not been given permission to marry him by the father. The authority for this decision rested with the father back in Paul’s day. In addition, it is assumed that the young man in question was a Believer (7:39). I believe this is the best interpretation of the three options based on the textual evidence.
The phrase he (the father of the virgin) who stands firm in his heart (v37) refers to his purpose or reasons for keeping his daughter from being married. Perhaps the man in question, hoping to marry this man’s daughter, is not a Believer. But, in reality, there could be any number of valid reasons as to why the father chose to withhold his blessing. The words stand fast is opposed to a disposition that is indecisive or troubled and denotes a man who has authority over his own will; has decided this in his own heart, in keeping his daughter in an unmarried state. Paul said, he will do well.
Paul wraps up this counseling section on marriage and remarriage with these words:
39: A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
40: But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.
Here Paul underlines all his counseling on marriage, divorce, and remarriage emphasizing that marriage is for life and Believers should only marry Believers. Paul states clearly death is the only circumstance that frees a person for remarriage and this is applicable even today. There are people who hold other opinions on this, but you’re hearing it from our apostle, which is the same thing as hearing it from the risen Lord.
In this present dispensation there is no ground or reason for obtaining a divorce. The marriage vows are binding until death. The “writing of divorce” that Moses gave the hard-hearted Israelites is not a rule for us today and even the one exception, adultery, (fornication), which our Lord allowed, was based on the fact that Jehovah’s wife, Israel, had to be divorced because of her multiple idolatries. Praise God she will be restored and re-united again to her true Husband in the coming future (Jeremiah 3:20; Isaiah 54:5-8).
Believers are only to marry other Believers whether this is your first marriage or a second. Let’s be clear on this by Believer Paul means to say someone who has a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and not someone who simply says, “I believe there’s a God.” Believers are to be “equally yoked.” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Verses 12 thru 40 may be summed up in this manner: If single stay single, if married stay married, if divorced stay divorced, if a slave remain in slavery unless set free, if circumcised do not become uncircumcised, if uncircumcised do not become circumcised. The intent of Paul’s advice was for each person, no matter their station in life, to conduct his or her life in such a manner that would not create any unnecessary anxiety or stress during the present distress, knowing the Lord’s return is imminent. Just keep on keeping on, in the Lord, if you will.
(To be continued)
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