“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry. So the person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord. But in my opinion it would be better for her to stay single, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.”1 Corinthians 7:35-40
Paul offers the same advice he has before; at least he is consistent. We can easily see Paul’s priority. It is not surprising given Paul’s heart and the fact that he is probably the greatest evangelist of all time. His heart is for the gospel and the kingdom of God. He is sold out to it. “I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” He makes it very clear where his heart is. Do you have a passion that rises above all else? Have you found something worth dying for? They say until you have found a cause worth dying for you are not really living. No, let me rephrase that – I say until you have found a cause worth dying for you are not really living. Many of us go through life without finding our passion and the thing that turns us on. Imagine having something specific that has been created to do a particular task or function but it has never been turned on. What a waste!
Oh you can criticise Paul for all sorts of reasons, for comments he made etc. But you can’t criticise him for his attitudes or support of women and you can’t fault him for the passion he has for the Lord and His Gospel, would that we all had the same passion and focus.
Notice too that Paul returns to two other themes in this context.
- “she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.” Don’t be unequally yoked. Marry if you wish, stay single and serve the Lord even better. But if you do marry then don’t marry a non-believer. Only marry her/him if (s)he loves the Lord. Same old Paul and we would do well to follow his advice.
- “I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this” – Paul is putting his own advice on the line here but adds that he thinks he has the sense of the Spirit on the matter as well. It is not a “thus sayeth the Lord” comment but he senses the Holy Spirit’s concurrence with his feelings and thoughts. Remember again – this was said in the context of persecution and end times thought and ought not to be made prescriptive for all situations. Paul is being very careful to spell out when the comment comes with the Lord’s inspiration. When it is in line with the general construct of His will and Word and when it is Paul speaking for himself. I have said already we would all do well to follow his lead and distinguish between the three. It might some clarity for those we lead as well.
These are Paul’s concluding remarks on the matter of marriage for the time being. There is more to come but not for a while. He wraps up the matter with these brief comments in his answer to the Corinthians’ question. Tomorrow we encounter the next of Paul’s attempts to address the questions the Corinthians sent him – Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols . . .
How happy and holy it is that those who love one another should rest on the same pillow.Nathaniel Hawthorne
Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage.Finnish Proverb
It is not marriage that fails; it is people that fail. All that marriage does is to show people up.Harry Emerson Fosdick