AT THE END OF THE AGE
Lord God, you know my needs before I ask and you invite me to be with you. I surrender to you.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:25–40
Concerning the Unmarried
25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
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[a] 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.[b]
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.
- 1 Corinthians 7:36 Or if she is getting beyond the usual age for marriage
- 1 Corinthians 7:38 Or 36 If anyone thinks he is not treating his daughter properly, and if she is getting along in years (or if her passions are too strong), and he feels she ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. He should let her 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 to keep the virgin unmarried—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who gives his virgin in marriage does right, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Grant us wisdom, O God, to discern the times, to know how to think and act as your redeemed people, living in the world but expecting your return.
Again, Paul’s guidance had no possible basis other than the one he named: ‘this world in its present form is passing away’ (v 31). Why else should marriage be postponed? Why should family life no longer be important? Why have mourning and rejoicing become irrelevant? Only if the present world is about to be eclipsed by God’s new order. Some find the idea uncomfortable that the early church and the apostles acted unrealistically in expectation of the eschaton, the end of the age. We benefit from two thousand years of reinterpreting Jesus’ words in the light of the passing millennia, but the simple understanding of Jesus’ words by the first Christians was to expect him. Their generation would not die before they would see Jesus ‘coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’1 Some would still be alive to see that ‘the kingdom of God has come with power.’2 Although persecuted, they would not have to flee far before ‘the Son of Man comes.’3 This expectation underpinned Paul’s understanding of Christian behavior. In his first extant letter, he wrote that it was ‘the Lord’s word’ that ‘we who are still alive’ will see him return and be ‘caught up … in the clouds’ to meet him.4 In a later letter, he wrote that believers must be alert because ‘our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.’5
We read these words two thousand years later, yet the basic principles behind Paul’s counsel remain true. We should indeed act as if Jesus could return soon. We should not become indifferent or lethargic. We know that following Jesus in today’s world means we should be good family members and responsible citizens but still we must hold lightly to the things of this world, knowing they are transitory. We, the redeemed people of God, must live in ‘undivided devotion to the Lord’ (v 35).
‘Come, thou long expected Jesus, / born to set thy people free. / From our fears and sins release us; / let us find our rest in thee.’6
Mighty God, help me today and in the future, to seek you and your kingdom above everything else.
1 Luke 21:27,32 2 Mark 9:1 3 Matt 10:23 4 1 Thes 4:13–18 5 Rom 13:11 6 Charles Wesley, 1707–88
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