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1 Corinthians 7:32–35

“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” (v. 35).

Paul’s advice to betrothed Corinthians on whether to get married stands out from his directions to Christians who were already married either to other believers or to non-Christians. In those cases, remaining married or getting divorced is a clear matter of right and wrong, and there is no freedom to do other than what is commanded depending on the specific circumstance (1 Cor. 7:1–16). With respect to those who are not yet married, however, things are different. In such cases, going through with the marriage is not a matter of right or wrong but of prudential judgment in light of the difficulties the Corinthian church was facing. The Apostle personally prefers for them to remain unmarried, but as we see in today’s passage, this is not a law that all betrothed people must follow.

Underlying all this is Paul’s desire that believers be “free from anxieties” (v. 32). Here the word “anxieties” refers to questions regarding the decision whether to get married. Simply put, in light of the new age that Jesus inaugurated in His death and resurrection, Paul means that there is no reason for believers to obsess over their personal choice to stay single or get married. That is because neither choice is sinful provided that God’s directives regarding singleness or married life are followed (v. 36). Believers are free in Christ to do what is best for them—to remain single if they have the gift of celibacy (vv. 6–7) or to get married if they do not have that gift (vv. 8–9).

Nevertheless, Paul is a realist about marriage. True, it is a good gift of God—that is what the Scriptures tell us (Gen. 2:18–25; Eccl. 9:9), and the Apostle was a student of the Scriptures. However, married life presents concerns and cares that singleness does not. Both singles and married people seek to please the Lord, but married people must also care for and seek to please their spouses (1 Cor. 7:32–34). As one commentator notes, married people are pulled in two directions—one to serve God and the other to serve their spouses. These directions are not necessarily inherently opposed. Clearly, it is possible both to serve the Lord and, in a lesser sense, to serve one’s spouse. Otherwise, Paul would not tell married people to stay married or give directions for how to relate to their spouses in a godly way (for example, see Eph. 5:22–33). Still, married life offers a narrower array of options for serving the Lord because Christian husbands and wives must take their families into account in ways that single people do not.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

It is not a bad thing to be married and to have fewer options to choose from with respect to specific vocational service to the Lord. For instance, a married person cannot simply decide to be a missionary without the spouse’s concurring. Still, while this narrowing of options is not bad, it is a reality. Single people should take that into consideration when choosing whether to get married.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 19:14
  • Philippians 4:6

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