10.  Marriage II: Singleness (1Co 7:17-40)





Context:  After speaking to those married or formerly married, Paul continues his emphasis on the guiding principle in marriage: "Stay as you are." He then speaks to those who are not married and explains own reasons for singleness.



Being Jew or Gentile simply means nothing to God.

Marriage is nothing; and celibacy is nothing. These things belong to the category of the irrelevant. Although circumcision counts for nothing, obedience to the will of God does.

Do not let your social condition be a concern to you.

Neither slavery nor freedom counts for anything to the one who is called into fellowship with Christ. In Christ, a Christian is both free and slave.

3 views about the meaning of "virgins":

(a) giving virgin daughter in marriage [but the terms father, guardian, daughter, etc. never appear in the text],
(b) refer to both men and women who are committed to one another in a "spiritual marriage", living together but without sexual relation, practised from 2nd to 5th century.
(c) some young betrothed women who along with their fiances were being pressured by some Corinthians not to marry as if going through with the marriage would constitute "sin" (v.28,36).

“present crisis”: exact meaning unclear, seems to refer to real affliction the Corinthians are experiencing, possibly persecutions. “I think”: the new reason does not carry moral weight; it is only Paul’s opinion.

“Are you bound to a woman? Stay that way, do not seek to be loosed. Are you free from a woman? Stay that way, do not seek a wife.” “loosed”: a technical term for discharging someone from the obligations of a contract

The question of marrying or not marrying lies totally outside the category of sin. Those who do not accept this advice do not in fact commit sin. However, they would have anxiety from marriage.

Christians should have a totally new perspective as to their relationship with the world in light of the end of this age: the time is short, this world is passing away. While a Christian lives in the world just as the rest—married, sorrowing, rejoicing, buying, making use of it—but none of these has domination over the Christian and none of them determind his life. In the 5 illustrations, the attitude of “as if not” frees us from being controlled. Paul is calling for a radically new perspective of their relationship with the world.

In terms of a Christian’s entire existence, it makes no difference whether one is married or celibate.

Christians do not react drastically to emotions (joy or sadness). Christians do not buy to possess.

Christians use material wealth but are “not engrossed” or “absorbed” in it.

I want you to be without “concern” (anxiety about marrying or not) even as you must “concern yourselves” with reality in the present age.

The two alternatives are parallel; the real difference is that the married man’s concern “is divided” (v.34, divided between the Lord and his wife)—less opportunity for service; but it does not mean that the one is a superior existence but just a different existence.

“the virgin” is singled out (from the unmarried woman) because she is the object of the following passage (v.36-38); ESV translates this as “betrothed woman”; “in both body and spirit” may mean “holy in everyway”, in view of the cultural ideal of the “chaste woman”

“not to restrict you” — no one is bound by Paul’s teaching in this area. Paul’s preference here is not based on “spiritual” grounds but on pastoral concern. He gave reasons for preferring celibacy but does not say that this is the most appropriate way of life. Both can still have undivided devotion to the Lord.

The passage is likely about the man’s bethrothed woman, not “virgin” daughter. The two are under the pressure from Corinthian ascetists not the marry (see comment on v.25 above).

In no less than four different ways he repeats that such a man must be fully convinced “in his own mind.” (a) he “has settled the matter in his own mind”, (b) he “is under no compulsion”, (c) “he has authority concerning his own will” meaning no one else is forcing this action on him, (d) he “has made up his own mind.” This strongly suggests that outside influence might lead him to take such an action. He is told to take control of his own actions.

He has not sinned if he marries; indeed, he “does well” although he who does not marry her will do even better because of the above two reasons (in the “context section).