Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife.
1 Corinthians 7:26-27 (NIV)
Read: 1 Corinthians 7:25-40
Consider: This section of 1 Corinthians 7 has often been used to suggest that it is better for Christians to remain single. However, as with most Scripture the context of the passage is of vital importance. There are two things here that are necessary for our understanding of the passage. Firstly, Paul acknowledges that what he is expressing is his opinion, not a command from God (7:25). Secondly, he says: Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is (7:2). This means that what he is saying is purely opinion and he is only giving it because of the crisis the Corinthian church was going through at that time. We cannot and should not extrapolate from the crisis situation the Corinthian believers found themselves in, to our present day situation. Despite this there are a number of truths in this passage we should not ignore.
Let’s think about why God instituted marriage in the first place. In Genesis 2:18 we read: The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him‘. So before anything else God knew that man was not designed to be a loner, nor could the man handle all the work and responsibility assigned to him by God. So marriage provides companionship, as well as enabling a couple to work together (not necessarily secular employment) in raising children (another reason for marriage).
Is Paul arguing against marriage? Definitely not! He is just being realistic that because of the ‘present crisis’ (the increasing persecutions) the Corinthian church was facing, an unmarried believer (man or woman) had fewer ties (i.e. family responsibilities) that could prevent them from either being bold for Christ, or restrict their ability to move quickly to escape the persecution. In Paul’s view singleness enables a person to ‘… live in a right way in undivided attention to the Lord’ (7:35). Notice the words ‘undivided attention’. There are benefits in being single, but there are also benefits in being married.
The question is often asked ‘Was Pul married?’ We might conclude from 1 Corinthians 7:7 that he was single (also see 7:8). However, in 1 Corinthians 9:5 he says: ‘Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us …’ So perhaps he had been married and was now widowed. Either way Paul is not against marriage. So when in 1 Corinthians 7:38 we read Paul saying ‘So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better’, we must always keep the context of the ‘present crisis’ in mind. He is not advocating singleness over marriage.
What are we to get from this passage? I think a major implication from this passage is that we should have a realistic view of the demands married life places upon us. Indeed, we should instruct others in the church so that they too understand it. Even within married life the demands change during each stage. If a married couple are blessed with children, the demands change considerably as the children grow up and mature. So how we are all able to serve God does not remain constant over time and church leaders should be accommodating, enabling service to change over time.
Pray: Father, give us a realistic view of singleness and marriage. Whether married or unmarried, we are yours to use in the way that you choose. May we be obedient to our calling. Amen