To Marry or Not to Marry? — Part One
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To Marry or Not to Marry? — Part One

The question of whether or not to marry is of great significance, with far-reaching effects. Paul instructed the Corinthian church to view all the practical concerns of life in light of eternity while living in undistracted devotion to Jesus Christ. Alistair Begg reminds us that maintaining an eternal perspective will change our worship and help protect against making poor choices.

Series Containing This Sermon

We Two Are One

A Study on God’s Plan for Marriage Series ID: 21401

Firm Foundation, Volume 3

1 Corinthians 7:1–9:27 Series ID: 14603

Sermon Transcript: Print

Of all the choices that any of us ever make in life, there can be little question that right up there among the top two or three is the whole decision as to whether we should marry and, if we decide that we should, who we ought to marry. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when Paul begins to address, as he has done in chapter 5, the whole issue of human sexuality, and on in through chapter 6, that by the time he comes to the seventh chapter, he devotes the whole chapter to this most pressing of issues—to this state in life that is capable of the deepest sorrows if it goes wrong and is capable of the greatest joys when it is got right. It’s an intensely practical issue, whether one is single and is able to live with the joy of singleness and whether one is married and is able to enter into all the benefits of marriage.

Now, as I’ve gone through chapter 7, I confess to you that I haven’t found it the easiest of chapters to study. And you may not have found it the easiest of chapters to follow along with either. And it maybe is just that you’re so gracious that you haven’t chosen to come and tell me, and for that I’m grateful in measure. But I do want you to know that as I’ve been going through it, I’ve been constantly searching to try and get ahold of what would be the central issue in the chapter that provides the key that opens up the totality of the instruction.

There was an old song by Melanie—who would be a grandmother by now—but she had a song called “You Got a Brand-New Pair of Roller Skates, I Got a Brand-New Key.” And the way I’ve been going through this chapter 7, I felt like I had the roller skates, but I still didn’t have the key. And consequently, they have been somewhat restrictive rather than helpful. If you haven’t felt that way, then, as I say, I’m grateful for that. But I want to suggest to you that tonight, as never before in our studies in 1 Corinthians, I’m beginning to understand it. You say, “Well, couldn’t you have understood it before you got to verse 25?” Well, possibly I could, but I’m just telling you that I haven’t. And I think that tonight will be a help to us.

It’s a highly relevant, it’s an emotionally charged subject, and it is vitally important that we get to the heart of what Paul is saying. And so what we’ll do tonight and, God willing, next Sunday evening is we’ll consider first of all the context of the instruction, in a way that we haven’t done before; and then the concern which he communicates in the instruction; and then, actually, the content of the instruction as it relates specifically to this issue of to marry or not to marry.

The Context of Paul’s Teaching

First of all, then, let us look at the context of his teaching.

We have noted before, as we began the book of 1 Corinthians, the broader geographical, historical, sociological frameworks in which Paul was writing—the religious factors which were present at the time. And that is not my concern. We have already sketched in that, and if we’ve forgotten it, then we can go back and get the tape and relisten to it and think it through again. When I speak of context now, I’m speaking within the context itself of the seventh chapter and the specific issues which I believe help to explain the nature and the emphasis of Paul’s instruction. I think that contained right in this chapter are one or two phrases contextually which explain why he says these things about singleness, which are perhaps strange to our ears and why he says these things about marriage, which are perhaps difficult for us to wrestle with.

There are three statements in particular which I think shed light on the matter. First statement comes in verse 26, where he refers to “the present crisis.” “The present crisis.” So we notice, first of all, in discovering the context of his instruction, that there was a crisis.

Now, the word which is used here is a strong word. It is the word in Greek, anankē, which means “a distress,” “a calamity,” “a violent, difficult circumstance.” It is the exact same word which Jesus uses when he speaks about what will be the characteristics towards the end of the age, and Luke records it for us in verse 23, where Jesus says, “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land.”[1] Megálē anánkēn. “Mega” distress. “Mega” crisis. That’s where we get our mega from. It’s a Greek word—just for those teenagers who use mega every so often. But nevertheless, Jesus said it would be a “megacrisis.” And Paul here says, “There is a present, dreadful, distressing, calamitous situation.”

Now, what does he mean? Well, we don’t know, because he didn’t tell us. We must know that the people who received the letter initially understood, because he would never have written about a crisis without giving explanation to it for his initial readers. It therefore was clear to them and unimportant, ultimately, for us, in the sense that if it had been of essential information, the Holy Spirit would have communicated it to us.

Now, that does not mean that we should simply say, “Well, we don’t know; therefore, let’s forget it.” Because we have been given brains to use, and we’ve been encouraged to think about issues. And so, as you think about what he’s referring to here, it will be helpful to remind yourself that fifteen years after he wrote the book of Corinthians, Jerusalem was destroyed. Jerusalem became virtually a ruin. And Paul himself had been the recipient of some of the most brutal persecution as he’d been treated in the various cities as he’d gone around proclaiming the gospel. And it may well be that somewhere in the spirit of Paul there is just this notion of impending doom; there is this sense that things are going from bad to worse. He knows it in his own experience. After all, he’s been beaten up and thrown out of cities all over the Mediterranean coastline. And he perhaps senses that he has been experiencing what others will also encounter as things continue to degenerate.

And certainly the fury and the insanity of persecution which was unleashed under Nero, which happened very soon after Paul was writing this, may well have been in his mind when he says, “There is a present crisis.” Very hard for us even to read of these events and to realize it was true as we sit in the comfort of an evening like this. But Nero was a brute. Nero was a bad man. Nero took Christians and had them sewn in animals’ skins, and then had the animals’ skins with the bodies inside them—the live bodies of Christians inside them—had them thrown to the lions. And the lions, smelling the animal content, ripped open the skins and then proceeded to rip apart the bodies of those who followed after Christ. That happened within a relatively short time. Indeed, the early historical records remind us of the fact that Corinth provided one of the early Christian martyrs—a man by the name of Erastus, who is mentioned in Romans 16.[2] And in [Foxe’s Book of Martyrs], Erastus is one of first people to die under cruel persecution.

Now, you say, “Well, perhaps that is right.” And perhaps it is right. “Surely there is a sense in which this crisis extends far and beyond that.” Well, it certainly does. Because there is one element of our thinking which is accurate when we say that this crisis to which he refers covers the whole state of affairs between the first coming of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus. There is a sense in which the whole church lives in crisis mode—that we recognize that when Jesus came and intervened in our time-space capsule, revolutionized things as a result of his death and resurrection, and pointed forward to the fact that he would make a reentry, that in the interim the Christian lives in crisis.

Now, the fact of the matter is that he provides absolutely no details, but nevertheless, it is important for us to realize that the things that he says about whether you should get married or whether you shouldn’t get married, or whether singleness seems like a good idea, he says within a context. And part of the context is that it is, if you like, a war zone. Now, if you think about that for just a minute—and I don’t want to run ahead of myself—imagine that you’re sending your boy out to war. He’s dating a girl. Do you advise him to marry before he leaves or not? After all, there is a more-than-even chance that he will not return from the crisis to which he goes. Therefore, because of the crisis, singleness may be a far better option. And in that kind of way Paul is thinking as he writes.

The second phrase to provide context for us is in verse 29, if you notice it. He says in an explanatory way, “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.” Or, as J. B. Phillips paraphrases it, “All our futures are so foreshortened.” To what is he to refer? Is he simply referring to the fact that life is brief? That James is accurate when he says that our lives are like a vapor, they’re like the morning mist: it’s here and it’s gone?[3] Or, as Peter writes, that all flesh is like grass and the glory like the flower of the field?[4] It may be that that’s what he’s referring to. Perhaps John Calvin is correct in suggesting that what Paul refers to is the impending approach of death[5]—although it seems unlikely, insofar as the instruction which he gives doesn’t seem to suggest that they’re going to die immediately. That’s why he’s giving them advice about how they ought to live. (Although who am I to cross-question Calvin’s ability to expound a text?) Perhaps when he says, “The time is short,” it is a reference to the imminence of the return of Jesus Christ. Because Paul certainly used the fact of the return of Jesus as an inspiration to those to whom he wrote, nowhere more clearly than when he wrote to the Thessalonians and also the Philippians. He urged them to blameless conduct and to zealous evangelism.[6]

Once again, the phrase “The time is short” presumably was understood by the Corinthians. But for us, it is merely conjecture.

The word which he uses here for “time” is the word kairòs. It is the same word that he uses in Ephesians 5, where he urges the believers there to “[make] the most of every opportunity”[7]—make the most of these kairos moments, seize the day. And what he is suggesting here is that because the time is short, the way we make decisions is influenced by the time frame.

Now, think about that. We do that all the time. Someone says, “Well, would you like to do such and such?” And we take our watches, and we look at them, and one of our questions is “How much time do I have?” So time becomes a factor in many of our decisions. Time is a factor in the decision as to marriage and singleness, says Paul. There’s a crisis, and that should influence us. There is a brevity about what’s going on, and that must influence us too.

Do you want to be a biblical Christian? Then you must submit to what the Bible says about our world.

Michael Green, the New Testament scholar, explains this phrase by paraphrasing it. These are his words: “God’s time has been furled,” furled like a sail. “The Lord has come in the mid-point of time, in the cross and the resurrection, and we live between that furled time and the second coming. We do not know how much wind is going to be opening that sail, but we do know that we are in furled-sail time.”[8] FST, as opposed to GMT or EST or whatever else it is. “We are living in furled sail time.” And Paul is acutely aware of that, and it influences his instruction.

The third phrase which provides context for us is in verse 31. It’s the final sentence of verse 31, in which he says, “This world in its present form is passing away.” The scheme of things—the word in Greek is schēma, which means “scheme,” or “fashion,” or “form,” or “manner of life,” or “mode of existence”—this, says Paul, is fading out. The world’s resources and its opportunities are on the wane.

Now, loved ones, do you want to be a biblical Christian? Yes? Then you must submit to what the Bible says about our world. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.[9] Therefore, those who misuse and abuse our planet Earth are in the wrong, because God has given it to us, and we are his stewards. Therefore, it is wrong to abuse it. Those who are tempted to hold on to planet Earth as if this was all that we have are also in the wrong, because “this world in its present form is passing away.”

John the apostle, writing in 1 John chapter 2, makes the statement with great clarity. Let me read it for you. One John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Now here’s the key verse, 17: “The world and its desires pass away.” The world—its scheme, its fashions, its plans, its ambitions­—it is disintegrating! This world is on the way out. That’s what he’s saying. The temporal scheme of things, our time-space environment, will explode and disintegrate. Therefore, eternity is a more pressing consideration than the affairs of time. Therefore, when we introduce eternity into the affairs of time, and specifically into the issues of marriage or singleness, and we allow eternity to provide the jurisdiction as to the way we deal with the crisis, deal with the brevity, and deal with a world which is fading out, it must revolutionize everything.

And you see, that is why, I think, many of us have been wrestling with this instruction: because we’ve been using the wrong context. We’ve been reading 1 Corinthians 7 from such a vantage point of “family values,” and “Family is everything,” and “Family is this,” and “My wife is that,” and “My singleness is my major preoccupation.” And what we’ve been missing are these contextual keys: there’s a crisis, the time is short, and the world is on the way out. There is nothing ultimately stable or solid about our world. It’s a facade! The molecular structure of our world could be reduced to nothing. You could take the Matterhorn and make it a size of an armchair in a moment. You couldn’t, but God can, in terms of all that proton-electron jazz, about which I know very little. Our world is like a Hollywood set. It has a front, but it doesn’t have a back. And it is going to be folded up and put away. It’s like going to a play, and when the curtain falls, everything that previously held our gaze as we sat in the audience is immediately swept away from our sight, and we have no control to open the curtain again. It is gone!

Now, I’ve taken time on this deliberately, and I’m trying as best I can not to apply it, although with difficulty. What I want you just to begin to note is the connection between his advice on staying single or getting married and living married in relationship to “the crisis,” verse 26; the short time, verse 29; and the passing world, verse 31. That’s the context.

The Concern of Paul’s Teaching

Now, what is the concern of his teaching? If you had a chance to sit with Paul by himself in your family room and you said, “Paul, you know that 1 Corinthians chapter that you wrote? What was the concern of your heart?” This is what he’d say: “Didn’t you read the chapter?” And we said, “Yes!” He said, “Well, you found it right there in the chapter. Come on, let’s look at it together again.” And he would open up 1 Corinthians 7 to us, and we’d both sit and look at it, and this is what he would say: “My concern in writing 1 Corinthians 7 was for your protection, for your provision, and for your devotion.”

First of all, the protection that he longs for in their lives. Notice verse 35: “I am saying this,” he says, “for your own good, [and] not to restrict you.” The word which he uses there is the word bróchos, which is a slipknot which would be put on a rope to go around the neck of a beast that you were seeking to harness. He says, “My intention is not to put a halter around your necks and to bring you into bondage.”

Now, the very fact that he points that out is an indication of the fact that many people would probably begin to think that that is exactly what he’s trying to do. “No, no,” he says, “my concern is that I want to protect you. I want to protect you from the trouble that you might face. Because there is a lot of trouble,” he says, “wrapped up in this marriage thing.” The word which he uses is the word thlipsis, which means “tribulation,” or “pressure,” or “affliction.” Verse 28; I’ve been searching for it. “Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

So you’re married, and it’s cool, right? But there’s a lot of trouble involved. There’s a lot of concern involved in being married. If you’re single tonight, you’re going home. Now, I’m not going to talk about what it’s like for you to go home. I’m just going to tell you, you’re going home. If you want to go Dunkin’ Donuts, that’s your choice. If you want to stay there till one o’clock in the morning, that’s your choice as well. If you want to read the whole of the Plain Dealer or do whatever you choose to do… And when you go home, yeah, you’ll be on your own. But guess what? You’ll have no one to answer to! If you happen to be the father of four, number one, you’d better go home, ’cause your wife is looking for you. If you stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, you’d better take at least a dozen home. Then you’re going to have to adjudicate over who gets the chocolates and who gets the glazed and go through all that hassle. Then you’ll have to be involved in the disciplinary procedures over those who took more than they should, and so it goes on and on and on.

Listen, single folks: from where I stand, it doesn’t look that bad to me. It doesn’t look that bad! And Paul’s concern in telling them, said, “Listen, there’s a lot of trouble if you get married. There’s a lot of distractions! There’s a lot of divisions! There’s a lot of stuff!” I mean, you go to a restaurant as a single person, you got enough money in your pocket to pay for one. Okay? Now, you may want to pay for two. But I go, I’ve got to have enough money to pay for five. And then I’ve got to be concerned about why three of the five didn’t really like what we chose. Then I’ve got to be ticked off about that and troubled and concerned and disgusted—and whatever it might be.

So he’s writing, he says, “I want you to know that when I say these things… I’ve made clear my context.” He says, “Now, my concern is that you might be protected—protected from trouble and protected from distraction and protected from concerns, not because of the pragmatics that I’m suggesting to you, so that you can be a happy single, but, as we’re about to see, so that you can give your undivided attention to the Lord and to his kingdom. But what I’m mentioning is just a little by-product, as it happens.”

So, number one, there is protection. Number two, there is provision. Like a good shepherd, he is seeking not only to protect them from harm but also seeking to benefit from them. Again, verse 35: “I[’m] saying this for your own good.” Or, as Phillips puts it, “I tell you these things to help you; I[’m] not,” he says, “putting difficulties in your path,”[10] but “I’m seeking to provide for you, which will be for your prophet and for your advantage.” In doing so, he’s truthful, he’s forceful, he’s clear. People may not like what he says, but nevertheless, he is a shepherd; he wants to protect them, and he wants to provide for them. And by his own testimony, when he took his leave of the Ephesian elders, he was able to say to them, “I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”[11]

And the third matter is that they would be men and women of devotion. You’ll notice again, in verse 35, he says, “that you may live in a right way.” There is a right way to live. The word which is used here means “well-shaped,” or “proper,” or “marked by decorum,” “marked by decency.” And Paul says, “That’s how I want you to live: I want you live in unhindered devotion to the Lord Jesus.” “I want you to live in unhindered devotion to the Lord Jesus.” “I want you to live in unhindered devotion to the Lord Jesus.” “In a time of crisis, in a time that’s short, in a world that is passing away, my great concern for you,” he says, “is that you would sell out for Jesus Christ.”

Now, when we begin to understand, you see, this context and this concern, then it begins to make sense how he longs to see men and women given over to the service of God and without any distraction.

The Content of Paul’s Teaching

That then brings us to what I think is the pivotal statement in the whole chapter. It follows on from the statement in verse 29 and embodies, essentially, verse 29b through the beginning of verse 31. That moves us, then, from context through concern to the content of his instruction. And I just want to deal briefly with this for a moment before we wrap this up this evening.

“What I mean, brothers, is [this:] that the time is short.” And then he says, “From now on, in light of this, I want to tell you these things: the world is passing away, eternity is reality, and time is transient. Therefore, I want you to have an eternal perspective brought to bear on every aspect of your lives.”

The perspective of eternity has an impact on the way we view culture.

Now, notice the aspects that he is concerned about. First of all, relationships: “From now on those who have wives should live as if they [didn’t have a wife].” Now, we’re going to have to understand what that means. But he says eternity has an impact on relationships, has an impact upon the whole question of sex. Secondly, eternity has an impact on death: “those who mourn, as if they did[n’t] [mourn].” Thirdly, eternity has an impact on happiness: “those who are happy, as if they were not.” Fourthly, eternity has an impact on possessions: “those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep.” And fifthly, eternity has an impact on culture: “those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.”

And people say, “Do you think the Bible is relevant?” Yes, it’s relevant! This is phenomenally relevant! What he is saying is this: that the word and instruction of the Spirit of God, given to him, which he now communicates through 1 Corinthians 7, touches upon the very essential areas of our lives: sex, death, happiness, things, and culture. Tell me you aren’t concerned about any one of those. They are the warp and woof of life. And he says, “When you understand these keys, then you will live differently in relationship to those things.”

Now, obviously, the preponderance of his time is given to the issue of relationships. And that is what the broad sweep of 1 Corinthians 7 is about. But because they’re here, I want you just to trace them with me in reverse order. When we come to relationships—or before—we will stop and save that for next time.

The perspective of eternity has an impact on the way we view culture. That is verse 31: “those who use the things of the world.” Well, do you use the things of the world? Do I use the things of the world? Of course we do! We’re in the world. It’s an all-embracing designation. “Well,” he says, “when you view things of this world, as you use them from a different perspective, then you will understand what it is to be involved in them without being engrossed by them.” Involved without being engrossed.

How many times in a week do you hear somebody say, “Oh, I just live for such and such! Oh, I just live for my dog!” You do? Boy, you must have a dull life! “Oh, I just live for my music.” “Oh, he just lives for his job.” “He just lives to read.” Fill it in any way you choose. Frequently, people say these kind of things: “We just live for our occupation. I go there early in the morning, I come back late in the evening. I just live to work.” Well, is there a Christian perspective on that? Yes, exactly! Christian faith must change the way in which we view the culture in which we move. We use the things of the world, but not as those engrossed by them. That is the change which Jesus makes.

That is so hard to work out. In some measure, it’s easy for me to say. After all, I don’t have what many of you have in terms of the privileges and opportunities of a daily routine. I’m removed from them. I don’t walk those corridors. I don’t do those things. Many a Monday, I wish I did. But the fact is, I don’t! So you men out there who walk those hallways and you ladies who live those lives, you are going to be able to apply this to your lives with clarity: living in this culture, using the things of the culture, but not engrossed by the culture. Because, you see,

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and [all his] show;
[And] solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.[12]

So the parties to which we go where there is a Christian presence ought to be different from the parties where there is no Christian presence. When there is a Christian present in conversation, it ought to be different. Because there will be a huge and glaring discrepancy between the preoccupations of those who are engrossed with our culture and those who are involved in the culture but not engrossed by it.

It has an impact, then, on culture.

Secondly, it has an impact on the way we view possessions. Look what he says, backing up through the verses: “those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep.” “Those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep.” In other words, he is discriminating between what it means to have things and what it means for things to have us. Surely this is one of the great tyrannies of all of our lives, is it not? Do I have possessions, or do possessions have me? When I am more concerned about my bank balance on earth than I am in any kind of interest in heavenly banking, when my preoccupation with my house down here is so significant that I have lost all interest in any possibility of a heavenly dwelling up there, when the joy that I sense in driving my car means more to me than what it might mean to drive around in heaven or run around in heaven, when playing the sound system of my stereo fills me with such excitement because of the woofers and the twitters and the who-knows-whaters that I have got no prospect of ever being in heaven and sharing in angel choirs, then I just found out that I’m on the wrong side of this equation. I am not living with eternity’s perspective, and I am not fulfilling what he calls me to here—namely, when I buy something, I may hold it, but lightly, not tightly, because it isn’t mine to keep! Because we can’t keep anything! We won’t take anything with us in our coffins. And from a purely pragmatic point of view, it is such a stupid tyranny to be tied to stuff. But we are!

Also, what about happiness? An eternal perspective on happiness: “those who are happy, as if they were not.” What? What’s he saying? He’s saying that in the preoccupations of our culture, which lives to make us feel good, he’s not saying there’s any virtue in feeling bad as an alternative. What he’s saying is that when eternity looms large, the things that give us the greatest joy down here lose their joy.

I mean, remember the day you graduated from high school? That was a great day! And you were happy that day. But in comparison to what it will mean to graduate from earth to heaven and stand before Christ, it’s nothing! Think of all the happiness that was in your heart as you stood at the end of the aisle and waited for your bride to walk down the aisle—or, as a girl, in reverse, whatever it was. Nobody could have taken that happiness away. No one would want to denigrate that happiness. But in relationship to what heaven will mean, it doesn’t even come on the computer screen. No matter what it is that we may get—whether we derive happiness from personal success, the happiness that we feel in getting promoted, the happiness that we feel in receiving an inheritance, the happiness that we feel in seeing our children succeed—all of that, he says, when eternity breaks in, those of us who find happiness in that should be as if we weren’t even happy about it at all.

Say, “That’s different.” It’s different. It’s revolutionary!

You see, I think this is why worship is so important, incidentally, as an aside. It’s why it’s so important that we enter into worship when we come together as the people of God. Because there is great power in corporate praise. There is a sense in which God in these moments opens to us just a tiny corner of the curtain of heaven and allows us to see through in a way that may not be ours to enjoy as we drive around or as we walk around. And therefore, when we become change jinglers and when we become observers in relationship to worship, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity of getting that little glimpse which puts everything in order. And I think it’s only when eternity creeps up upon us and grabs us or strokes us on the back of the neck that we can take everything that represents happiness to us and say, “That doesn’t even make me happy in comparison to the prospect of what this means.”

See how earthbound we are? ’Cause some of us are having a really hard time making the connection. ’Cause everything that made us happy last week had to do with earth. Everything that made us happy last week had to do with time. Eternity never even was featured in our thinking.

The same thing is true of death, he said: “those who mourn, as if they did[n’t].” He’s not suggesting stoicism. He’s not suggesting that Christian faith makes us sterile and emotionless. But what he’s saying is this: in terms of the loss of a loved one, even through our tears, we’re not going to lose hope, we’re not going to lose purpose, we’re not going to ultimately fall apart, we’re not going to lose all our motivation for life. Why? Because of eternity!

Now, it’s not Paul’s emphasis, nor is it his purpose, to fully develop these areas. And that’s why I wanted just to make a cursory overview of them with you. But even this brief overview should clearly show us just how relevant the impact of eternity will be in the practical areas of our lives.

Let me summarize it with Phillips’s paraphrase. This is what he says: “There is no time to indulge in sorrow, no time for enjoying our joys; those who buy have no time to enjoy their possessions, and indeed their every contact with the world must be as light as possible, for the present scheme of things is [actually] passing away.”[13]

Do you see how antithetical this is to our self-oriented culture? You see what this does to every advertising ploy in every magazine and in every television commercial that sucks us down into its quagmire of sex and possessions and happiness and culture and death? When we begin to wrestle with this, we understand why it is that Peter says, “[You’re] a peculiar people.”[14] “You are a peculiar people.” Because if ever the Spirit of God would get ahold of our hearts in relationship to this, that has to do with relationships and with death and with happiness and with things and with culture, now the world has got something to see when it comes amongst the church.

And what does it see when it comes amongst the church? The same preoccupations as the world outside the church. The same incidences of divorce. The same incidences of promiscuity. The same incidences of infidelity. Something’s wrong! I’ll tell you what it is: the keys in 1 Corinthians 7—crisis, brevity, and a passing world—have been lost sight of, and we find ourselves whitewashed just enough to pass inspection of blind guides.[15]

Read 1 Corinthians 7. Pray 1 Corinthians 7 through. Think about the question of whether you ought to get married in light of these things tonight, and what you ought to be doing with your marriage in light of these things tonight. And God willing, next Sunday evening, when we come back, we will try, with the help of the Lord, to bring these keys and concerns to bear upon the express question of singlehood and marriage.

Father, you know the burden of our hearts here as a leadership in this church: that for your glory and because of your mercy, our congregation may not be proud and arrogant; that we who lead may not have a posture that would lead our folks in that way, but that we do have a burning longing in our hearts that the Word of God may be brought to bear upon the people of God by the Spirit of God in such a way that we might begin at least to approximate to the peculiarities which will mark those who have begun to wrestle with eternal values as they impact all these things we’ve considered now.

Lord, we pray that you will give us undivided hearts and that you will help us so to wrestle with the claims of your Word that as our days open before us, in singleness or in marriage, that we might be as lights in a dark place. Thank you for this day, and thank you for each one before us now, for all that we represent. And as we look out on the challenges and opportunities of the week before us, we pray that we might live and move and have our being[16] within the framework of eternity.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be the abiding portion of each one, tonight and forevermore. Amen.


[1] Luke 21:23 (NIV 1984).

[2] See Romans 16:23.

[3] See James 4:14.

[4] See 1 Peter 1:24.

[5] John Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, trans. John W. Fraser, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 159.

[6] See Philippians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:10.

[7] Ephesians 5:16 (NIV 1984).

[8] Michael Green, excerpt from a sermon preached at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, December 1979, quoted in David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1985), 135–36.

[9] See Revelation 21:1.

[10] 1 Corinthians 7:35 (Phillips).

[11] Acts 20:27 (NIV 1984).

[12] John Newton, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” (1779).

[13] 1 Corinthians 7:30–31 (Phillips).

[14] 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV).

[15] See Matthew 15:14; 23:24.

[16] See Acts 17:28.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.