Held in Honor
10/8 – Undistracted Devotion (1 Corinthians 7:25-35)
Introduction — Here Paul answers more of the believer’s questions. To the church in Corinth Paul takes up the concerns of those who are engaged to be married. Paul gives his opinion on the matter. And in light of the present distress (whatever that might be), Paul says that it is good for a person to remain as he is. If a man is already married (or engaged), then he should not seek to be free. If a man is free from a wife, then he should not seek a wife. If a man gets married, then he has not sinned. If a woman gets married, then she has not sinned, either. Paul explains, however, that those who marry will have worldly troubles (and he wants to spare them from those troubles). Paul then states: the appointed time has grown very short. In other words, life is brief; so, live as though your only obligation were to Christ. Paul wants them to give their best to Christ, for the present form of this world is passing away. Paul wants them to be free from anxieties or concerns. Since Paul wants them to be all in for Christ, he notes that it’s generally more difficult to give complete attention in how to please the Lord if one is married. But Paul does not want to lay any extra burdens on them. He does, though, give his thoughts in order to promote what is appropriate among them and to secure their undistracted devotion to the Lord. Did any of them heed his advice? Do any of us give any thought to the brevity of life? Do we consider the gravity of being all in for God? Do we give Him our best? Do we give Him our all? Do we give Him our undistracted devotion?
Life is tough and short. And in light of all that’s going on, and in spite of all that’s going on, give Christ your best.
In light of the present distress . . .
25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.
26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.
Comment: Paul here continues to answer questions from the church. This question concerns those (women) engaged to be married. Paul seems to say, “That’s a great question; here’s what I think you should know. In light of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is.” If a man is married (or engaged), then he should not seek to be free. If a man is single, then he should not seek to marry. Further, if a man gets married, then he has not sinned. If a woman gets married, then she has not sinned, either. Paul explains, however, that those who marry will have worldly troubles (and he wants to spare them from those troubles). Paul wants the best for the church. He is direct and honest with the church. He wants to spare them any extra burdens in a moment already filled with a crushing trial. And so, in light of the present trial, it is good to remain as you are in your relationships. Question: Are you going through a pressing trial? Do you have questions? Are you seeking godly counsel? Are you hearing and heeding godly counsel? Do you have the Lord’s mercy in view? Application: Be aware of the present trials of life. Seek godly counsel for your questions about life? Keep your focus on Christ. Be aware of His mercy. Be alert to His work in your life. Remain faithful to your relationships with others. Honor your vows to your spouse. Keep on keeping on. Remain steadfast.
In light of the present time . . .
29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Comment: Here Paul expands the point he’s making. In essence he says, “That’s a great question, and here’s what I mean by my answer: the appointed time has grown very short.” In other words, life is brief. And since the present time is short, Paul asserts, live as though you had no other obligations. This present time is no time for business as usual. It’s a time for focus. It’s a time for being alert. It’s a time to make the most of the time. It’s a time to look to eternity. In light of this short time, they must see the importance of eternal matters because the present form of this world is passing away. Question: Do you make the most of the time entrusted to you by God? Are you alert? Are you aware of the brevity of time? Do you see that this world is passing away? Are you trying to live your life and everyone else’s life, too? Are you living this present time in light of eternity? Application: See how short life is. Live as though you had no further obligations. Live with urgency. Live with purpose. Live with a focus on eternal matters. Be alert. Be alive. Be serious. Make every moment matter.
In light of the present concerns . . .
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Comment: Here Paul shares his heart for them, his love for them. Paul tells the church, “That’s a great question; here’s what I want for you: I want you to be free from anxieties. Whether they are married or single, in light of their present concerns, Paul wants them to be free from anxieties. He doesn’t want to put any restraint upon them, but he does give counsel that will benefit them. He truly wishes to see them give their best to the Lord, their undistracted devotion to the Lord. If they are anxious, then it’s because they focus on either the situation or on themselves. The word undistracted brings the idea of being free from tugs in opposite directions. The word devotion means constantly attending. The outcome, then, that Paul sees is one where they are free from anxiety because they give full attention to the Lord. In light of their present concerns, these folks can give their complete focus to the Lord. They can and should live with undistracted devotion to Him.
Question: Are you giving Christ your full attention? Do you see the freedom you have in Christ? Do you see the benefit of devotion to Christ?
Application: Do not be anxious for anything. See the freedom you have in Christ. Give your best to Him. Give your full focus to Him. Serve Christ as you serve others. Serve Christ as you serve your spouse. In light of your present concerns, give your undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Word Study for 1 Corinthians 7:25-35
26 impending (enistemi—arriving; imminent; present; beginning; current)
26 distress (ananke—trouble; tribulation; complete obligation; pressure)
26 good (kalos—advantageous; fitting; important; commendable; honorable)
28 trouble (thlipsis—affliction; oppression; anguish)
28 spare (pheidomai—avoid; keep from; refrain; forebear)
29 shortened (systello—limit; draw to a close; wrap up; draw together; shrink)
31 form (schema—shape; figure; outward appearance; structure)
32 free from concern (amerimnos—without worry; free from care; not anxious)
32 please (aresko—find approval; satisfy; proper; fit together)
34 divided (merizo—apportion, assign; distribute; allot; deal out; separate)
35 benefit (symphoros—welfare; good; beneficial; advantage; profitable; useful)
35 restraint (brochos—snare; halter; slip-knot; restriction)
35 appropriate (euschemon—attractive; proper; honorable; respectable; modest)
35 undistracted (aperispastos—without hindrance; undivided; without distraction)
35 devotion (euparedos—constantly in service; constantly attending)
Application for 1 Corinthians 7:25-35
Let’s give godly advice to one another.
Let’s honor all our promises.
Let’s honor our marriage vows.
Let’s live as though we are obligated only to God.
Let’s not fret.
Let’s make the most of our time.
Let’s see the brevity of our time.
Let’s give undivided devotion to the Lord.
Gospel Connections for 1 Corinthians 7:25-35
Christ is trustworthy. Christ is merciful. He knows our present distress. He Himself is acquainted with grief and sorrow. He knows distress. He knows, too, the joy of friendship. Christ knows the sweetness of relationships.
Christ knows the delight found in obeying the Father. He lived on this earth with a focus on doing only what the Father directed Him to do. Jesus Christ gave full attention to the Father. Christ lived to honor the Father. Christ lived to please the Father. Christ heard and followed the Father. Christ lived a life of undistracted devotion.
Thoughts and Quotes for 1 Corinthians 7:25-35
[Spiritual friendship] is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways. ~ Timothy J. Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have become one flesh. If you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and His church. ~ John Piper
We don't persuade our neighbors by mimicking their angry power-protests. We persuade them by holding fast to the gospel, by explaining our increasingly odd view of marriage, and by serving the world and our neighbors around us, as our Lord does, with a towel and a foot-bucket. ~ Russell D. Moore, Adopted for Life
Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time. ~ Victor Hugo
Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days. ~ Zig Ziglar
Commentary for 1 Corinthians 7:25-35
7:29–31. Paul’s reference to the Corinthians as brothers reflected his deep concern for their well-being. His concern caused him to ponder the conditions of life faced by all believers—married, divorced, widowed, engaged, and single alike. He began and ended with acknowledgments that this life is fleeting: time is short … this world in its present form is passing away.
Between these opening and closing thoughts, the apostle reflected poetically on the nature of life in this fleeting time. His poetry followed the patterns of parallelism found in Old Testament poetry. Because this material is poetic, it is not surprising to find that the apostle spoke in hyperbole. He mentioned several kinds of people: those who have wives, those who mourn, those who are happy, those who buy something, and those who use the things of the world. As in 5:1 and 7:2, those who have wives probably does not refer to the engaged virgins, but to those who maintain sexual relationships with their wives.
All of these activities are legitimate and honorable in Paul’s view, but they are oriented toward this earthly life. Paul was concerned that believers not invest themselves too deeply in such matters. For this reason, he balanced each category of activity by encouraging an eternal perspective. Christians should live as if they have no wives, no mourning, no happiness, no permanent possessions, and no engrossments.
Paul’s words should not be taken in an absolute sense. Elsewhere he affirmed balanced views of marriage responsibilities and sexuality (Eph. 5:22–33), happiness (1 Thess. 5:16), mourning (Phil. 3:18), and possessions (1 Tim. 6:8). In this passage, he reminded all Corinthians that these legitimate aspects of life are not everything.
Paul defended this attitude in verse 31: the world to which these things belong is passing away. To handle matters of this life properly, Christians must remember that these things are not permanent. On the one hand, believers live in this world with its pleasure, pain, and responsibilities. On the other hand, they belong to the next world that will replace this life forever. This is why Paul described his own life in paradoxical terms: dying but living, beaten but not killed, sorrowful but rejoicing, poor but making others rich, having nothing but owning everything (2 Cor. 6:9–10).
7:32. Paul continued to address all varieties of Corinthians by explaining that he gave the instructions in 7:29–31 in order to keep them from anxiety. He wanted them to be free from concern. The word translated “free from concern” is amerimnous, which may be positive (“caring”) or negative (“worrying or being anxious”). The same is true of its cognate verb merimnao, here translated “is concerned.” Given the fact that Paul said he wants people to be amerimnous, it seems best to understand a negative force in this passage.
Traditionally, amerimnous has been taken to mean “free from concern over worldly matters.” This reading probably arose because of the context of the immediately preceding verses (7:29–31). As a result, merimnao has been interpreted positively in reference to “the Lord’s affairs,” but negatively in reference to affairs of this world (7:33). Paul did not offer this qualification, however, and the word itself does not mean this. Moreover, people in every station of life, whether married or unmarried, are susceptible to concern and anxiety when they lose the eternal perspective.
As Paul pointed out, even an unmarried man may worry over the Lord’s affairs. Elsewhere in this letter, Paul made it clear that the Corinthians placed heavy emphasis on human merit (4:7). The Corinthians: misunderstood what it meant to be “in Christ” (15:18–22); thought their spiritual gifts were meritorious and status-worthy (12:1–31); and strove for spiritual status through their own efforts and associations (3:21; 5:6). Because they thought pleasing God depended on their own works, they had good reason to worry about pleasing him.
7:33–34a. Paul declared that a married man without an eternal perspective has even more trouble than an unmarried man because he must worry about pleasing his wife as well as the Lord. To fulfill their moral responsibilities, married men must pay attention to all kinds of things that may distract them from their efforts to please the Lord. The affairs of this world crowd their lives and their interests are divided. If they lack an eternal perspective, they worry about pleasing God and about very real problems like putting food on the table even in times of famine.
7:34b. Similarly, an unmarried woman or virgin (engaged woman) who lacks an eternal perspective may worry that her efforts to please the Lord will fail, or will not be enough to satisfy his holiness. It is the duty of unmarried women to refrain from fornication, to be devoted to the Lord in … body as well as in spirit. This was probably hard to do in the sexually loose world of Corinth, particularly for those who had once been part of the promiscuous crowd. Keeping sexually pure was certainly as stressful as it was difficult, especially for those who thought their acceptability before God depended upon it. While a married woman had an outlet for her sexual needs, she also had the added worries of nurturing a relationship with her husband and of fulfilling her household responsibilities.
7:35. Paul did not encourage the postponement of marriage or the adoption of an eternal perspective in order to restrict the Corinthians’ behavior. He did not intend them to interpret 7:29–31 as instructions against conjugal relations, mourning, happiness, or participation in the marketplace or in life. Given the Corinthians’ propensity to twist Paul’s words, Paul was probably wise to make this point explicitly. Paul knew that postponing marriage and adopting an eternal perspective would benefit the Corinthians by helping them live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
Though the NIV uses the word devotion here and the word devoted in verse 34, this is somewhat misleading since the Greek words euparedron (“devotion” NIV) and hagios (“devoted” NIV) are completely unrelated. Paul certainly did not mean to say that postponing marriage would help engaged virgins refrain from fornication. In fact, he apparently intended euparedron (“devotion” NIV) to refer to men and women, whether married or unmarried. The devotion of which he spoke was probably the eternal perspective he encouraged and the willingness to alter behavior on the basis of that new perspective, such as by postponing marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:29
But this I say (τουτο δε φημι [touto de phēmi]. Note φημι [phēmi] here rather than λεγω [legō] (verses 8, 12). A new turn is here given to the argument about the present necessity. The time is shortened (ὁ καιρος συνεσταλμενος ἐστιν [ho kairos sunestalmenos estin]). Perfect periphrastic passive indicative of συστελλω [sustellō], old verb to place together, to draw together. Only twice in the N. T., here and Acts 5:6 which see. Found in the papyri for curtailing expenses. Calvin takes it for the shortness of human life, but apparently Paul pictures the foreshortening of time (opportunity) because of the possible nearness of and hope for the second coming. But in Philippians Paul faces death as his fate (Phil. 1:21–26), though still looking for the coming of Christ (3:20). That henceforth (το λοιπον ἱνα [to loipon hina]). Proleptic position of το λοιπον [to loipon] before ἱνα [hina] and in the accusative of general reference and ἱνα [hina] has the notion of result rather than purpose (Robertson, Grammar, p. 997). As though they had none (ὡς μη ἐχοντες [hōs mē echontes]). This use of ὡς [hōs] with the participle for an assumed condition is regular and μη [mē] in the Koiné is the normal negative of the participle. So the idiom runs on through verse 31.
1 Corinthians 7:35
For your own profit (προς το ὑμων αὐτων συμφορον [pros to humōn autōn sumphoron]). Old adjective, advantageous, with neuter article here as substantive, from verb συμφερω [sumpherō]. In N. T. here only and 10:33. Note reflexive plural form ὑμων αὐτων [humōn autōn]. Not that I may cast a snare upon you (οὐχ ἱνα βροχον ὑμιν ἐπιβαλω [ouch hina brochon humin epibalō]). Βροχον [Brochon] is a noose or slip-knot used for lassoing animals, old word, only here in N. T. Papyri have an example “hanged by a noose.” Ἐπιβαλω [Epibalō] is second aorist active subjunctive of ἐπιβαλλω [epiballō], old verb to cast upon. Paul does not wish to capture the Corinthians by lasso and compel them to do what they do not wish about getting married. For that which is seemly (προς το εὐσχημον [pros to euschēmon]). Old adjective (εὐ [eu], well, σχημων [schēmōn], shapely, comely, from σχημα [schēma], figure). For the purpose of decorum. Attend upon the Lord (εὐπαρεδρον [euparedron]). Adjective construed with προς το [pros to], before, late word (Hesychius) from εὐ [eu], well, and παρεδρος [paredros], sitting beside, “for the good position beside the Lord” (associative instrumental case of Κυριῳ [Kuriōi]). Cf. Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39). Without distraction (ἀπερισπαστως [aperispastōs]). Late adverb (Polybius, Plutarch, LXX) from the adjective ἀπερισπαστος [aperispastos] (common in the papyri) from α [a] privative and περισπαω [perispaō], to draw around (Luke 10:40).
 Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson
 Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 121–123). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (1 Co 7:29). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
 Ibid. (1 Co 7:35–36).