Summary: Paul is saying it is not wrong for any Christian to get married, but there are circumstances that make it better if they are not married.
Few groups of people in history have fought a more bitter battle than the Pilgrims who came to
Plymouth on the Mayflower. So many of them died from sickness, that at one point only four of the
original couples still had each other. Edward Winslow and Susanna White had each lost their mates.
They were both convinced that God did not intend for them to remain single. So, in spite of the short
time their mates had been dead, they asked Governor Bradford to unite them in marriage. It was the
first wedding of the Pilgrims in their new land. The feasting, gaiety, and laughter, of the wedding
was a healing gift from God to these people oppressed by so much sadness. It boasted their spirits
and gave them a renewed sense of hope.
These godly people were thankful for marriage, as godly people have been ever since Adam saw
Eve, and said, now this is more like it. Marriage is God's idea, and He proclaimed it good. It is
honorable in all says the book of Hebrews. We do not have to labor the point, for it is universally
accepted that marriage is both beautiful and essential. Yet, in this 7th chapter of I Cor., the Apostle
Paul seems to have it in for marriage. The nicest thing he can say for it seems to be that it is not a sin,
which is hardly an exalting compliment. The one thing we can say for Paul is that he is consistent.
He tells the never married to stay single, and he tells the divorced to stay single, and he tells the
widow to stay single. As far as Paul is concerned, the number one choice is to stay single.
Paul is saying it is not wrong for any Christian to get married, but there are circumstances that
make it better if they are not married. Paul said he did not baptize many people, but you get the
distinct impression that he married even fewer people. He sounds a great deal like the man who
defined a bachelor as one who never made the same mistake once. Maybe Paul, in his travels, stayed
with some families that left him with a very negative impression, and he went away thanking God for
the blessing of escaping all that hassle. We don't know all of the reasons for Paul's negative attitude,
but when it comes to marriage, he seems to be a confirmed believer in Murphy's Law, which says, if
anything can go wrong, invariably it will. He assumes that marriage and trouble are synonymous. In
verse 28 he does not say troubles are possible, or even likely, he says they are a certainty. "Those
who marry will have worldly troubles and I would spare you that." Paul knew that marital bliss can
turn to marital blisters. I read of one bitter wife who said she would gladly get a divorce if she could
figure out how to do it without making him so happy.
The value of this passage for us is that it counteracts the dreamy idealism of the romantic. People
who think holding hands, and gazing into each others eyes, solves all of life's problems are not ready
for the realities of marriage. Paul's purpose is not to spread pessimism, for he is a positive thinker.
He knows the Christian can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. He knows that God
will work in all things for good with those who love Him. He just wants Christians to be realistic
about the obligations that go along with marriage. We do not live under the same circumstances as
the Corinthians, but Paul's point it still valid for all generations. Marriage is not the promised land,
but is still part of the wilderness journey. Life in general is full of problems, and getting married does
not shelter you from them, but often compounds them.
One of the reasons divorce is so high is because of unrealistic expectations. They jump into
marriage thinking it will be the solution to all of their troubles, and when they discover it isn't, they
figure they must have married the wrong person, and so they divorce and try again. They are always
looking for that marriage that will bring utopia. The whole process is a subtle form of idolatry,
where people expect to find in marriage what only God can supply. Gordon and Dorthea Joeck in I
Take Thee write, "Marriage, as life itself, is made up of many and varied ingredients: Struggle and
achievement, success and failure, joy and pain. Marriage does not remove us from vulnerability to
life's difficulties and bring us only its joys. To expect this is unrealistic preparation for married life."
This is what Paul is conveying to the Corinthians.