1 Corinth. 7: “Single vs. Married”

Dr. John Murray

Dr. John Murray was once a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and c0-founder of Westminster Theological Seminary. Murray served on the faculty there for many decades as Professor of Theology, writing many excellent books that have served the church well for decades. A life-long bachelor, he finally retired at age 75, moved back to his homeland of Scotland. Upon his arrival back in Scotland, Murray married a woman about half his age. Less than two years later they had a child (it’s a real Abraham and Sarah story). It may have been he felt that he had given God the best 75 years of his life; now it was time to have a little fun. Unfortunately, his heart couldn’t take all that excitement, and a few years later he died.

According to Paul’s philosophy of marriage, Paul would indicate that Dr. Murray lived for 75 years with less distraction in his life. Of course we don’t know if Murray struggled with lust, prostitution, or carousing of the sort, but all indications point to Murray being a man of God who served him well in academia.

Considering the example of human sexuality in Corinth was so perverse, it was critically important that Paul help define a healthy definition of marriage for the Corinthian believers. You have to keep in consideration when reading this section that these new believers in Christ would quickly be swimming against the current of cultural immorality. But just as the pendulum often does, there were some Greeks who were ready to reject sex and marriage all together in the name of higher morality.

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 (NLT) 32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.

These verses in many ways serve as a synopsis of the major point Paul is trying to make through the entire chapter. It’s interesting to read how Paul goes back and forth on the issue of being single verses being married. While Paul is typically not fearful of mincing words, you can see him doing more of a little political dance throughout this chapter. Right from the beginning of the chapter, we learn Paul is responding to a question that’s been raised in a previous letter to Paul (7:1).

Free From the Concerns of This Life

The summary statement for the whole chapter is found here in verse 32 (NLT) 32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. If you walk away from the reading today with anything, let it be to allow this statement to cause refection in your own life. Paul understood that the less distractions we have in life, the more focused we can be on God. What are the things in this life that are distracting your attention from the next?

Although Paul didn’t condemn a Christian for marrying, he did point out the benefits of being single. He continues in verse 32 (NLT) An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him.

But not only does Paul advocate for being single, but he also makes a very strong statement regarding the priorities of those who are married. To summarize verses 33-34, a married man and woman’s interest should be divided between their earthly responsibilities and pleasing their spouse. While Paul is advocating primarily for single living, he’s also helping to teach the necessity for every married person to be concerned about their spouse.