In the New Testament, there are several passages on marriage, each with its own emphasis and necessary for us to take to heart. We could turn to Ephesians and learn of Christ-like love, or to 1 Peter and learn of understanding and honor, or even to the book of Revelation, to learn of the wedding feast. Tonight, however, we will turn our attention to a different kind of passage, to give you perspective on the time frame in which you soon will wed a wife.
“Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”
—1 Corinthians 7:25-35
In wisdom, timing is everything.
For example, when opportunity knocks, you must not hesitate.
You must make hay when the sun shines; strike the iron when it is hot; and redeem the time, for the days are evil.
In many cases, the same action can be wise or foolish, depending on when it is done.
In the bear market, sell; in the bull market, buy (or is it the other way around?); but wait for the ball, then swing.
Our question tonight is: What does it mean to take a wife at the end of history?
In this passage, Paul is talking wisdom. He clearly tells you that he has no command from the Lord. There is freedom here. He also tells you that he is giving you his opinion, as one who, by God’s mercy, is trustworthy. In other words, you will not be told what is right, but rather what is wise, in light of present circumstances. It is very situational. He says, “I think then that this is good in view of the present distress…”
Ethically, if you are an idealist or a perfectionist, Paul’s counsel may be hard to accept. He clearly tells you that while one choice may be better than another, they may both be right. In hearing what he has to say, you must embrace the idea that choosing the lesser of two good options is not a sin. It is not a sin to be less than idealistic. By the way, you have already made such a decision. You have already chosen the lesser of two good options, but you are not sinning. What then does it mean to take a wife at the end of history? It means doing something right that is no longer the best choice.
Time was when marriage was the best choice. God looked upon everything that He had made, and saw that it was very good; but when He had looked on man, He saw that it had not been good for him to be alone. Consequently, the Bible tells us that God took a rib, fashioned the woman, and rejoined her to the man, so that his flesh was once again complete. It was good for him to marry. The man may have lost his rib, but he gained his wife.
For many young men, it is definitely not good for them to be alone. Single men often make money and live for themselves, buying big toys and caring for no one’s needs. Once they marry—blessed be God!—they are forced to think on another, and soon, on several others, thereby making themselves tolerably useful in this world. I know this happened in my life, and for that reason alone, it was a good choice.
But if in the beginning, God said that it was not good for man to be alone, here now at the end of history, Paul says that it is good for a man to remain as he is, even if that means not to seek a wife. Though some may say that Paul is referring to some imminent persecution or to some other localized trauma, he writes in larger terms about “trouble in this life” and that “the form of this world is passing away.” The wording of “this life” and “this world” seem global, not local. He also says that the “time has been shortened”—apparently the timetable of world history—so that life as we know it is soon to pass away. Eternity is upon us, making everything here relative. Those with joys should not be elated, and those with sorrows should not be deflated, for these present circumstances are soon over. Thus even those with a wife should act as single men, just as those with property and rights should not make full use of them, for soon we leave it all behind.
Timing. It truly is everything.
So what does it mean for you to take a wife now, at the end of history?
First, taking a wife now will bring you trouble that could have been avoided (v. 28). Given the times, you are about to face “distress” and you cannot avoid it. The word “distress” literally refers to necessity, to a compulsive reality that will force you to experience trouble. As in war and famine, when it clearly easier to be single, so also now, at the end of history, it is easier for a Christian to go it alone. No details are given. Just the fact of the matter is stated.
Second, taking a wife now will also bring you distractions that could have been avoided (v. 32). You will have cares and concerns that will distract your attention away from Christ (v. 32). While the single man can spend his time in perpetual prayer, like the widow Anna in the temple, the married man must keep one eye on Christ and one eye on his wife. He must please both Christ and his wife.
It is interesting to see what marriage does to a man’s attention and focus. I have seen a single man go from the simplicity of living in his truck all summer long to the citification of living with a woman who likes him dressed in suit and tie. Colors, decorations, party planning, and flowers in the wallpaper all come with marrying a woman—things that single men are not concerned about. How much better is devotion to the Lord that is undistracted!
Even physical intimacy is a distraction, though at first it may seem like the star attraction. I remember my youth pastor making a comment in his thirties about sex as overrated. As a teen, I was surprised by such an opinion. However, if the studies are correct that men typically decline in interest beyond their teens, while women often rise in interest, then even intimacy can become a distraction over time—a fact that the apostle seems to acknowledge, when earlier in this chapter he wrote, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (v. 1).
Trouble and distraction—that is marriage at the end of history. So what should you do?
First, you should marry your beloved with full confidence. “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released” (v. 27). Since the apostle is addressing singles, and since the word “wife” simply means “woman” (Greek having no term for “wife”), this counsel probably refers to a binding betrothal commitment. If so, you are specifically advised to follow through on your commitment to marry your woman. It would seem that the apostle Paul is adverse to a change of plans, perhaps because changing plans does not reflect the faithfulness of God to His word—a thought Paul expresses to the Corinthians in a subsequent letter. Therefore, embrace your decision as a right decision: “If you marry, you have not sinned” (v. 28). To marry is right. You should go ahead as planned.
Second, you should seek to please her. One of the most freeing things about this passage to me, as a married man, is the open recognition that I live a divided life. I must please Christ, and I must please my wife. This recognition has helped my conscience at times when it has cried out to be solely devoted to the Lord. I cannot, and Jesus does not expect this of me. God be praised!
In history, there have been men who perhaps should have taken this recognition more to heart. A. W. Tozer, for example, the famous preacher of the last century, seems to have been a man lacking in this area. While being a phenomenal preacher, and an evangelist who turned many to a hearty pursuit of God, he woefully neglected his family. Spending hours in his basement as an evangelical mystic did little for his wife, who said upon his death that Aiden loved Jesus, not her. Even his biographer described him as a married monk! Men, love Jesus and love your wife! The Lord expects this of you.
Third, just as you should not live solely to the Lord, so you should not live solely for your wife. There must be something different about your home now than was true of the saints of God under the Old Covenant. While it may have been great for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to have children, servants, and property, in the present age such things are extremely relative. Yes, please your wife, but do not lead her into making the home your chief priority, as if, for example, having a multitude of children is more godly and blessed than having one or two. Timing. To have too many physical children of your own in this age may prevent you from caring adequately for the spiritual children of God’s house. “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Jesus once asked, to which He answered, “Whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33, 34). The form of this world is passing away, and in the age to come, we will be like the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage.
Trouble and distraction, but no sin. That is marriage at the end of history. Full confidence, pleasing her and pleasing the Lord, and doing both in light of Eternity. That too is marriage at the end of history.
It is possible, therefore, for both Jesus and your future wife to be happy. May it be! God bless you both in knowing how to live when you live! In Christ’s name, amen.