Summary: Being a single person isn’t a bad thing.
1st Corinthians 7:1-2, 8-9, 25-40.
INTRODUCTION: Many of you in our congregation are single. And perhaps you have been made to feel like you’re a second-class citizen for being single. As if being single is something to be ashamed of. Well, I’d like to try to dispel those erroneous opinions using Paul’s words to the Corinthian church. Let’s see how living single is a good thing.
Vs. 1&2. “Now about the matters you wrote about…” We don’t have any record about this letter Paul is referring to but it’s obvious from other chapters that they wrote to Paul about various issues (8:1, “Now about food sacrificed to idols…”, 12:1, “Now about spiritual gifts…”, 16:1, “Now about the collection for God’s people…”) The concern addressed here seems to stem from the question of whether or not they should marry. They were probably getting differing opinions on the subject and wanted Paul to clarify the matter. He does by stating that it was better to not marry but then he takes the matter a step further. “But since there is so much immorality…” Corinth was one of the largest cities in the Roman world and also one of the most corrupt. The City of Corinth had a bad reputation and was known for its immorality and for the famous temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The temple normally housed some one thousand ritual prostitutes who would come down each night into Corinth and work their trade among the many foreign travelers and the local men. In this letter to the church there, Paul lists some of the city’s sins which some of them had been involved in before their conversion (6:9–11). But there was still a sexual immorality problem in the church (5:1). The situation in Corinth is probably not much different that what we are dealing with today. Instead of the city of Corinth you have the city of Syracuse. As there were prostitutes going into the Corinthian city there are prostitutes in this city. And although we might not have a temple dedicated to the goddess of love, we do have plenty of strip clubs and porn shops dedicated to the god of lust. Paul said it was good to be single. But he also recognized the city’s problems and concluded that it was better to get married than to live in sexual immorality.
Vs. 8&9. Paul understood that he was offering a difficult challenge to the Corinthians to live celibate in a lust filled society. And he says that if you’re someone whose strong desires are such that you feel you can’t control yourself and continue living the single life then you should marry rather than burn with passion. I don’t think Paul is saying that you should marry someone just for the purpose of not sinning sexually. Just being able to have sex is not a good reason to get married. I think Paul would be including here when referring to ‘passion’ the passion that comes with deep love for the other person. So much so that they couldn’t imagine themselves being apart. The couple’s love is so deep for one another that under such circumstances they should get married. But, Paul also knew that just because the challenge to be celibate is difficult, it’s not impossible. This challenge could be met and accomplished through the power of Jesus. Paul was a living example to them as one who was already doing it. It’s not easy but Paul said it’s good if you exercise restraint and remain single. But why would Paul say it’s better to be single?
Vs. 25-28. Vs. 26, ‘present circumstances’. Albert Barnes: “What the urgent distress of this time was is not certainly known. If the epistle was written about A.D. 59, it was in the time of Nero; and probably he had already begun to oppress and persecute Christians. At all events, it is evident that the Christians at Corinth were subject to some trials, which rendered the cares of the marriage life undesirable.” Paul’s basically saying that whatever situation people are already in, don’t seek to change it. But, if you feel the need to get married, you’re not committing a sin, but there are going to be some problems to face.
Vs. 29-31. We’re not exactly sure what Paul was specifically implying here. Was the time short due to the fact that the next great event in church history is Christ’s return, which could happen at any moment? Or was it due to the state of affairs at that present time where increased persecution was taking place such that it wasn’t sensible to become married? Calvin took it to mean the shortness of human life. Whatever the case, which could include all three observations, Paul is trying to present an awareness that we shouldn’t get overly attached to the things of this world, including marriage. Jesus said in Matt. 22:30 that there would be no marriage in heaven. Marriage is an earthly joy. Our greater concern should be building up treasures in heaven. Marriage is one of those things that will pass away along with the earth itself. We need to seek first the kingdom of God.