Most of us would make personal happiness in marriage a top priority. However, in 1 Corinthians 7, while Paul presents the advantages of the single life when it comes to devotion to the Lord, he also gives us some helpful teaching on marriage. He is careful to approve of marriage for those who are not called to singleness, but he does not promise that marriage will be free from troubles and distractions. Rather, he challenges Christians to a higher priority in marriage than is usually given.
Marriage Is Not Forever
It is clear in Scripture that the state of matrimony does not extend beyond this present life: “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Mt. 22:30 kjv). We will not walk hand in hand as we did on this earth. Christ will be the heavenly Bridegroom. The Church will be His Bride. Every true believer will be part of that Bride. We only read of one marriage in heaven – the marriage of the Lamb. This truth regarding the future must influence our view of the present. It refutes the teaching of some cults about marriages in heaven.
How Should We Then Live
In 1 Corinthians 7:25-35, Paul uses three expressions to describe the setting of our lives on earth in the context of marriage: “the present distress” (7:26), “the time is short” (7:29), and “the fashion of this world passeth away” (7:31). The word “distress” implies stress or pressure. Christians are in conflict with the world. For some the possibility of persecution and separation places marriage under great stress. For others, the societal pressures can be devastating.
The fact that life at best is very brief (and married life may be even briefer through the death of a spouse) challenges Christians to hold all of life loosely. We are never to neglect marital responsibilities. Husbands are to love as Christ loved the Church. But neither are we to invert the priorities, and live just for marriage. The hope of Christ’s return shortens the life expectation of the believer.
The present structure of things is not permanent. We are to live “as though” they are transient. This principle covers several areas of life (7:29-30). In regard to marriage, sorrow, joy, possessions, finances, pleasures and entertainment, we must live “as though” we are not strongly attached to them. They are only for a time. We are not to overvalue those things which are proper in their place, but pass.
Beware Of Distractions
It is perfectly normal for husbands and wives to want to please each other. But if this is all, they’ll be distracted from pleasing the Lord, and will miss out on things that count. In verses 7:32-35, Paul uses a word to show that he is concerned about the distractions and preoccupations of marriage. He is not writing to make Christians feel guilty about being married. He is not placing any snare or restraint on them. He is writing for their benefit, that they might live in undistracted devotion to the Lord (7:35). A good Christian marriage is well described as “a relationship in which each lives for the other, and both live for the Lord.”
Pleasing The Lord
Every Christian wants to please the Lord. What better way, than to become more like Him? We learn from God that the ultimate fulfillment of love is not in self-occupation, but in reaching out. In the mystery of eternity past, we see the Father and the Son in a perfect relationship. But they did not limit their love to themselves, perfect as they were in their divinity. They found their “delight with the sons of men” (Prov. 8:30-31). We were on their hearts before the world was made! Whether single or married, love finds its fulfillment in loving others: “Love is not for gazing at one another, but for looking together in the same direction.”
For Christians, the basic principles remain. Husbands are to love. Wives are to submit (Eph. 5:22-23). But we are called to something better than, and beyond, the present. The greater priority is to live to please the Lord and to care for others, whatever the personal sacrifice. This can be the way through difficult situations. One thing is certain: it will be worth it all when we see Christ.
By Maurice Muller
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org