1 Corinthians 7:32–40
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife — 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin — this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.
39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is — and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
Christians often want someone to tell them what to do to please God. But life is very complicated and each Christian has an important responsibility to decide how to please God in spite of the complications.
The section including 1 Cor. 7:32–40 is best understood in light of Paul’s contextual statement “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31b). When you combine that fact with the need to please the Lord while living in a world that God has judged by the death of Christ, you have a very challenging path ahead. That was true in Corinth as well as for us today.
In verses 32–35, Paul discusses how this challenge might be simplified at the cost of forsaking marriage. That this is a choice not everyone can make is the subject Paul takes up in verses 36–38. If Paul thinks others should make celibacy their choice, as he has done (1 Cor. 7:38b), we might also consider that they need his support in making that sacrifice. It is important to note that Paul does not dictate what choice is to be made but leaves it to the people involved. They must figure out how to live for God most effectively.
In terms of making an application of verses 39–40 to remarriage today, the most vital clause would be “he must belong to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39b). When Christian women allow themselves to “fall in love” with a non-Christian man, a spiritual disaster is coming! Of course, we could say the same thing of a Christian man marrying an unbelieving woman. We should not be confused about advising someone in this situation. Such relationships literally amount to sleeping with the enemy of God.
Copyright © 2013 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.