Paul wrote to the local church, admonishing the local congregation toward unity. According to Paul, unity comes through maturity in the faith. Paul believes that, without admonition, there is no sanctification within the local body of believers—a growing into the likeness of Christ. In Chapter 7, we learn that maturity comes only in contentment. Contentment is a humility of circumstance. There are three branches of contentment listed in 1 Corinthians 7: contentment of (1) relationships, (2) religion, and (3) socio-economic status. When we are overly concerned about what we are getting from other people, fulfilling our lusts or preferences, our influence, titles, outward religiosity, personal offenses, social status, popularity, income level, or getting what we are entitled to, Paul identifies us as immature in the faith and the sources of discord within the local congregation. Paul has addressed the practices of remarriage (7:1-11), marriage to unbelievers (7:12-17), circumcision (7:18-20), and slavery (7:21-24). Now, he turns his attention toward those who have never been married—virgins.
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1 Corinthians 7:25-28
25 Περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων ἐπιταγὴν κυρίου οὐκ ἔχω, γνώμην δὲ δίδωμι ὡς ἠλεημένος ὑπὸ κυρίου πιστὸς εἶναι. 26 νομίζω οὖν τοῦτο καλὸν ὑπάρχειν διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην, ὅτι καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ οὕτως εἶναι. 27 δέδεσαι γυναικί; μὴ ζήτει λύσιν· λέλυσαι ἀπὸ γυναικός; μὴ ζήτει γυναῖκα· 28 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ γαμήσῃς, οὐχ ἥμαρτες. καὶ ἐὰν γήμῃ ἡ παρθένος, οὐχ ἥμαρτεν. θλῖψιν δὲ τῇ σαρκὶ ἕξουσιν οἱ τοιοῦτοι, ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμῶν φείδομαι.
Paul’s opinion (v. 25-28)
Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.
Paul addresses a new group in the local church, virgins. This group differs from the group of unmarrieds he has already addressed, confirming our interpretation of his previous instruction—it was about remarriage rather than first marriage. Second, Paul’s status as a widower is confirmed because he identified himself as part of the first group, unmarrieds, rather than as part of this group, virgins (cf. v. 7-8).
Concerning virgins refers, then, to those who have never been married. Paul presumes that, since they have never been married that they have never had sex. Paul’s use of the word, “παρθένων” to refer to those who have not yet been married reveals that marriage and sex are explicitly connected in the New Testament such that they go together—sex is not biblical outside of covenantal marriage relationship. At every turn, Scripture discourages lust and sordid gain in every arena of life. It encourages contentment and self-denial in every arena of life. We are wolves by our depraved natures and wretched conditions. Christ calls us to be sheep in the midst of wolves (cf. Matthew 10:16). One day, the wolf will lay down with the lamb (cf. Isaiah 11:6). I am aware that Isaiah refers to literal wolves and lambs, but the imagery fits so nicely with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the call to true contentment.
Further, we learn that it is not wrong to form opinions and give advice about things that are implicit or entirely non-explicit. Paul gives us the example. We can form opinions and share those opinions with others so long as we are not against Scripture and do not present our opinions as binding. There is no command from the Lord about virgins marrying. Yet, Paul has an opinion and identifies Himself as one who is trustworthy—whose opinion is in line with clear biblical principles, contentment in this case. He is trustworthy not as a result of his own works, but only by the mercy of God.
Here, we learn something about our own character. Each person, if asked about his or her character, believes him or herself to have good character and integrity. I have never heard anyone admit to untrustworthiness. In Scripture, we learn that our character depends not on our outward works but the mercy of God. God, because He is merciful, develops our character within us, and our actions are the result of God’s inward work by His mercy alone.
I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.
In view of the present distress. Paul writes to Corinthians living in the First Century AD. Their present distresses include persecution from Rome and extremist Jews, high taxes, bickering and the drawing of denominational lines in the local church, and so on. In light of these hardships, Paul thinks it is good for a man to remain as he is—here men being included under the “virgin” designation, revealing Paul’s biblical stance concerning the equality of men and women.
Doubtless there are many distresses in this life and in the church brought on by human desire (cf. James 4:1-4). People don’t get what they want, so they fight. Things have been this way since the Garden (cf. Genesis 3). In light of the bickering and fighting of worldly people, Paul advises never married people not to complicate their lives. By way of application to everyone, we see that it is good for us to live simple lives uncomplicated by the things of this world or by the constant need to fulfill our own preferences or expectations. Just be. Chill. The world’s burdens and expectations are many. Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden light (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). If we follow Him rather than after our own lusts, desires, preferences, and the expectations of the world, our lives will be free from most of the complications that come with worldly living. The local church will become more lighthearted, more mature, and more unified as a result—such is the purpose of Paul’s instruction (cf. 1 Corinthians 1).
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
Paul broadens his admonition to live contented lives to those who are currently married. Whatever our circumstances, we do not seek new circumstances no matter our desires, preferences, or expectations. Why? Life in a sinful world is complicated, but God is good. His ways are better than the world’s. Quiet, humble living is simpler and less stressful than having to fulfill our desires, preferences, and expectations.
These truths apply to everything from relationships to politics to church life. We live to give, not take. We consider others to be more important than ourselves. Whether someone is conservative or liberal or republican or democrat or reformed or not, our objective as Christians is contentment, not complaint. We will reason well enough, but true Christians are free from insult, slander, and all forms of malice. If they are not, then they are still infants in the faith.
But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
Paul clarifies. It is not a sin for a virgin or anyone else to get married. We do not call sin what the Bible does not call sin, but we recognize the reality of sin in the world. Marriage simply makes life more complex, and Paul desires to spare those in the local church at Corinth from the complexities of life in a stressful world.
When we are children, we strive to get everything we want and suffer much hardship because we almost never get our way. When we grow up, we learn that we will never have everything we want and life comes with responsibility. Life in Christ is much the same, almost as if God designed our physical lives to depict our salvation and sanctification in Him. When we come to Christ, we are concerned about having our way, our preferences, desires, lusts, and expectations met. As we grow up, our lives become less about us, what we desire, and more about Christ, what He desires for us. Our contentment facilitates maturity in the faith and leads to happiness free from the stressors of worldly living and striving to have things our way.