First Corinthians 7:25–40 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
Being single can have its advantages, if you use the time God has allotted you for his glory. Apostle Paul has some counter-cultural words for us; he'll suggest that single-minded singleness has its advantages. In today's passage, Paul shares several of these advantages. While many of them can be universally true, we must be careful to understand what Paul is saying in the context of his first letter to the Corinthians.
1. Singles are better able to cope with troubles (7:25–28, see below) In these first four verses, Paul suggests that being single isn't nearly as bad as some think. Rather, in the midst of a difficult period of time, Paul recommends that engaged couples consider remaining single. In vv. 26–28, Paul launches into the first advantage of singleness, recommending singleness in light of challenging circumstances in Corinth.
These were challenging days, particularly for married couples in Corinth and much of the rest of the Roman world due to famines. But, you might ask, "How does this apply to me? I'm not in the midst of a famine." However, there are many other situations that might qualify as a "present crises" (or "distress" in some versions): temptation, stress, financial difficulty, busyness, materialism, even peer pressure to marry or not to marry. All are modern stresses that could render Paul's opinions here every bit as practical today as when they were first offered. Paul isn't against marriage; however, he recognizes that marriage is not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, single-minded singleness has its advantages.
Paul makes it clear that marriage is a legitimate option for single people, but he wants to spare us unnecessary grief. Hence, it's good to thoughtfully consider the option of singleness. Marriage is good and noble and holy and honorable (Hebrews 13:4), but it's not the be all and end all of life. If you are miserable being single, how can you be sure you'll suddenly be happy being married?
2. Singles are better able to maintain spiritual priorities (vv. 29–31) Paul challenges us to live with the end in mind. The first phrase "the time is short" should remind us of the brevity of life. The second phrase ". . . this world in its present form is passing away" comes from a Greek expression that means something like "this world is but a shadow of reality." The idea is that this life is here one moment and gone the next.
So the time is short and the world is passing away. What follows from this truth? In vv. 29–31a, Paul flashes this out in five ways. Singles have the potential to maintain spiritual priorities. One of the reasons that this is the case is because of Paul's third advantage.
3. Singles have fewer distractions (vv. 32–35) Paul expresses the reality that marriage requires being absorbed in the "concerns" of one's spouse. He acknowledges that married people are concerned about their spouse, and rightly so! If they're not, they'll not find themselves in a happy marriage because immense sacrifice, time, and energy are required in a happy marriage. As a result of our marital efforts, Paul warns that the marriage relationship can keep us from devoting ourselves more fully to Christ.
4. Singles have the option of marriage (vv. 36–40) It appears that the man in view is the fiancé of the virgin, who is considering the possibility of marriage with her. An engaged couple is free to decide whether to marry or remain single; both options are viable and permissible.
In 7:39–40, Paul concludes this chapter on marriage and singleness with an explanation of what can happen when the husband dies. Paul leaves the topic of marriage, divorce, and remarriage with an emphasis on his two most important thoughts: marriage is for life; and Christians should marry only Christians.
Paul's last comment — "and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." — is a unique one. Paul isn't wondering whether the Holy Spirit dwells inside him; rather, he believes that he's received the Spirit's illumination on this topic.
- Q. 1 Why will those who marry "face many troubles" in life (v. 28)?
- Q. 2 Whether you're single or married, who should have first place in your life (v. 35)?
- Q. 3 Can a single person find emotional fulfillment and intimacy if he or she has chosen to remain single in order to be more fully devoted to the Lord?
1 Corinthians 7:25–40
New International Version (NIV)
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Concerning the Unmarried
25Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs — how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife — 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
36If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin — this man also does the right thing. 38So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.
39A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is — and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.