Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
- Paul does not have a command from the Lord regarding the betrothed.
- Paul is giving his opinion and advice.
- Paul is trustworthy.
- Paul is trustworthy because of the Lord’s mercy.
- Because of the current situation Paul believes one should remain either married or unmarried.
- Even though Paul’s advice is to remain unmarried you have not sinned if you marry.
- Those who marry will have worldly troubles.
- Paul would like to spare the Corinthians worldly troubles.
- The appointed time has grown very short.
- Paul’s advice:
- Those who are married should live as if they were not married.
- Those who mourn should live as if they are not mourning.
- Those who rejoice should live as if they were not rejoicing.
- Those who buy should live as if they did not have anything.
- Those who deal with the world should live as if they did not deal with the world.
- The present form of the world is passing away.
- Paul wanted the Corinthians to be free from anxiety.
- The unmarried man is worried about the things of the Lord.
- The married man is worried about the thing of the world.
- The married man is worried about how to please his wife.
- The married man’s interests are divided.
- The unmarried man or woman is worried about the Lord’s things.
- The unmarried man or woman is worried about how to be holy.
- The married woman is worried about how to please her husband.
- The married woman is worried about worldly things.
- Paul gave this advice for the benefit of the Corinthians.
- Paul did not give his advice to put restraints on the Corinthians.
- Paul gave his advice to promote good order.
- Paul gave his advice to secure undivided devotion to the Lord.
- If anyone is not behaving toward his betrothed as he should and his passions are strong let them marry.
- It is not a sin to marry if your passions are strong and you wish to marry.
- If ever does not want to marry and keep his betrothed does well.
- The one who marries does well.
- The one who does not marry does better than the one who marries.
- A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives.
- If a husband dies a woman is free to marry whomever she wishes, so long as it is in the Lord.
- Paul believes the widow would be happier if she remained unmarried.
- Paul believes he has the Spirit of God.
Paul states clearly he is giving advice. He is giving his opinion and what he writes is not a command from the Lord. It would be wrong however, to understand this passage as giving permission to go beyond what the scripture says. That is, since Paul gave restrictions that were not in scripture it provides a principle we can use to go beyond scripture and add to God’s word. Here is a comment John Calvin makes about that idea. “Papists, however, rashly infer from this, that it is allowable to go beyond the limits of God’s word, since nothing was farther from Paul’s intention than to go beyond the limits of God’s word for if any one attends more closely, he will see, that Paul here advances nothing but what is included in what Christ says in Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:5; but in the way of anticipating an objection, he acknowledges that he has no express precept in the law, pointing out who ought to marry, and who not. (The Complete Biblical Commentary Collection of John Calvin)
Some, and I include myself in that number, believe when Paul says, “in view of the present distress” He is referring to a specific problem in Corinth. Others believe the language in verse 28 suggests that Paul is referring to a more general idea, specifically the issue that faces all Christians. How do we serve Christ in the present evil age? While I would admit that could be an application of this passage I do not think that is a sound understanding of what Paul had in mind when he wrote the words, “in view of the present distress”
The theme of this passage is found in the first paragraph, where Paul tells the Corinthians to live as if they were not a part of this world.
Paul is trying to arouse the Corinthians from their stupor. He asks them to recognize that life is short. He infers from this we ought to use the things of the world as if they are not ours. The man who considers himself a stranger in the world uses the things of the world as if they belonged to someone else. They are simply on loan. The mind of the Christian should not be taken up with worldly things. Everything, and I mean everything, you own will someday belong to someone else. You will no longer own anything. According to Paul, the man who dies with the most toys does not win. The man with the most toys when he dies is a fool. The man who lives forever wins.
In verse 36 Paul says, “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed…” He appears to be talking to men who had differed marriage to their fiancée. Later in that same verse when he says, “let them marry—it is no sin.” he seems to be talking to fathers who may have not permitted their daughters to marry. In either case, whether for the young single or the widow Paul is clear, marriage should not be inhibited, though he argues for the advantage of remaining unmarried.
In meditating on Paul’s comment, “those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it,” I began to understand what Paul was saying. Paul is not saying not to deal with the world. Paul did not say, those who deal with the world must stop or even should stop dealing with the world. Paul said they should not live as if they are dealing with the world.
We often live in the here and now. We live in the secular. Why, because that is what seems important to us. Often times we compromise with what we believe thinking it is pragmatic. YOu may have heard someone say, “I live in the real world,” as if the kingdom of God is not real. “If I don’t go along I will lose my job.” “Everyone else is doing it.” “I have to do it to compete.”
All these are ways we live dealing with the world. They are pragmatic solutions to difficult situations. But Paul is pointing out the time is short. What is truly pragmatic is living in a manner that brings glory to God. The present form of the world will be gone in the blink of an eye. Then, where will you be? Then, what will be important? Then, will be too late.