“(25) 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. (26) 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. (27) Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. (28) 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. (29) 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; (30) 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; (31) 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.” (1 Corinthians 7:25–31, NASB95PARA)
Something was going on at the time of Paul’s writing this letter. It may have been a localized or regional distress, or it may have been the first pangs of the coming Roman persecution which was to begin a few years after this is written or it may even have been related to them living in the last days of which none of them knew the exact timing. Whatever the situation, it was significant enough that Paul was encouraging them to hunker down and not seek any drastic changes to their lives. These opinions of Paul were not commandments, but considerations in light of whatever else might have been going on in their bigger picture.
Writing to them as a trustworthy apostle of Christ and one who knew the freedom of being single and free of the care of marriage, Paul encouraged them to remain in whatever state they were at the time. For the single person or “virgins” God had not redesigned His plan for men and women, but as a single person (male or female) there was a freedom that they would not have in marriage.
Similarly, he wrote to the married person that he or she was not to seek to be released from their marriage. And, if for some reason they had been released from their wife (or a husband) they were not to seek to get remarried. Citing the cause of the unspecified “present distress” they were all to seek to remain as they were.
To both the single and the unmarried Paul followed his wise advice by saying should the single or released person marry or remarry that they had not sinned. The exact parameters of this freedom need to be considered in relation to the context of the other verses in Scripture that deal with divorce and remarriage.
For those who did marry or even remarry, Paul continued, that they needed to keep their priorities straight. Marriage is God’s institution for one man and one woman to come together as husband and wife, and then within the context of that union each was to keep the priority of their relationship with God. Their spouse was not to be their god. They may share some very special things, but this bond is intended to be shared as they individually and as a couple worship and follow God and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the meaning of living as if they had none (husband or wife). It is not a life of negligence, but of properly placed love for one another out of their love for God knowing that their interests as Paul would soon write truly were divided.
Marriage is not easy. Some do much better than others. Some marriages thrive, and some are a battle. Some are filled with weeping and others with rejoicing, while most have some of both. Paul knew that the bonds of love would surely be tested as the things of life with two people in the same home with varying desires create the friction that surely would happen.
None of us know the length of our days, and for these believers the distress surrounding them may have signaled an expectation that their days may indeed be shortened. In light of this they were to live as if the things around them were not worth acquiring for the purpose of possessing and the things of the world not worth indulging to the exclusion of living for God. We live in the world, but we do not live for the world. One day it will all pass away. This is true whether we leave it by death or by our Lord coming to take us with Him. I don’t have a clue of its origin, but I’ve heard is said in a variety of ways that you will not see a hearse towing a U-Haul.
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6–8, NASB95)