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The Scriptorium

Marriage and Calling

Calling first, then everything else. 1 Corinthians 7.36-40

1 Corinthians 7 (6)

Pray Psalm 32.1, 2.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Sing Psalm 32.1, 2.
(Hendon: Take My Life and Let It Be)
Blessed are they whose sins the LORD has forgiven by His Word!
Pure their spirits are within; them He charges with no sin;
them He charges with no sin!

Read 1 Corinthians 7.1-40; meditate on verse 36-40.

1. What did Paul teach about giving one’s daughter in marriage?

2. What did he say about widows remarrying?

The background for this last section of 1 Corinthians 7 is the matter of calling. Paul wrote that we should be content in the calling God has given to us, to serve Him faithfully there in every way we can. God might change our calling, but we should not seek a different calling apart from His clear leading.

That teaching applies to young girls and widows. In Paul’s day, apparently, a father had the last word over whether his virgin daughter should marry. In Paul’s view, it would be better if she did not, for this would require a change of calling (v. 38). After all, God had given her that calling—to be unmarried—both to bless her and to use her in His Kingdom. But if she did choose to marry, and if her father granted permission, that was fine, too. Her wanting to marry and her father’s agreeing to it would be a strong indication that God was in it (v. 36).

At the same time, that father who will not agree to let his daughter marry “does well” by preserving her in her current calling. But that did not mean the young woman must resign herself to remain permanently unmarried. God can change minds, and He often does so in His time. The father’s refusal to grant permission might only be for a time. And if he does change his mind, then he “does not sin” (v. 36).

Widows may remarry but “only in the Lord” (v. 40). Paul thinks they might be happier if they don’t—and he thought he had the Spirit’s consent on this issue. Nevertheless, he left the door open for a widow to change her calling if the Lord led and she could do so unto Him and for His glory.

It might seem as if Paul was talking out of both sides of his mouth on these matters. He wasn’t. The overarching concern is that people should follow God’s leading and serve in the calling He has appointed to them. That can change, but a person should only consider a change of calling if they can do so as unto the Lord and to improve their service in His Kingdom. We are not our own, after all.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
It is all a matter of the heart. Paul is teaching that regardless of our marital state, our sole purpose in life is to follow the Law of God, love the LORD with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. So said Jesus, as well (Matt. 22.37-40).

If we are married, we are to love God first and foremost.
If we are single, we are to love God first and foremost.
If we are a parent, we are to love God first and foremost.
If we are widowed, we are to love God first and foremost.

The consistent theme being:
Love God most of all, serve Him first, seek His Kingdom above all things,
and don’t let anything in life distract us from that.

And all this is to be done by loving others with the love Paul spelled out in 1 Corinthians 13.

Jesus drew a very clear delineation between what people claim as religious “love” and “care” and what is truly love and care. We are not allowed to ignore our human responsibilities in order to show “love” for God. That is faux love at its worst.

Jesus pointed out this sinful misconstruing to the scribes and Pharisees: “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— ‘then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites!” (Matt. 15.4-7).

Jesus also said to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matt. 23.23).

In other words, serving God faithfully must never be used as an excuse for ignoring a parent, a spouse, a child, or responsibilities due to an employer. God will not be party to shirking in His Name.

We have the Holy Spirit living within us (Acts 1.8); and we have been given the promise of wisdom if we ask for it (Jms. 1.5). So, we have all the tools necessary to do God’s work in His way, which is altogether possible because with God, “Nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1.37). Not even this.

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’
Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” (Is. 6.8).

For reflection
1. What are some things that could hinder you in fulfilling your calling from the Lord? How should you deal with these things?

2. We cannot love our neighbors as we love ourselves unless we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Why is this necessarily true?

3. How would you counsel a new believer to keep love for God at the forefront of their soul?

In our choice of relations, and change of conditions, we should always be guided by the fear of God, and the laws of God, and act in dependence on the providence of God. Change of condition ought only to be made after careful consideration, and on probable grounds, that it will be to advantage in our spiritual concerns.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7.36-40

Pray Psalm 32.3-11.
Pray that God will give you grace to recognize and resist temptation and to be faithful in working your calling for His glory.

Sing Psalm 32.3-11.
(Hendon: Take My Life and Let It Be)
When in silence I remained, groaning in my sinful pain,
You Your hand upon me lay; all my strength You drained away,
all my strength You drained away.

I confessed my sin to You; You forgave me, ever true!
Let confession’s pleading sound reach You while You may be found,
reach You while You may be found!

When flood waters threaten me, You my hiding place will be.
O’er them I will rise above, buoyed by Your redeeming love,
buoyed by Your redeeming love.

Teach me, LORD, how I should live; sound instruction ever give.
Let me never stubborn be; let Your eye watch over me,
let Your eye watch over me.

Though the wicked wail and weep, they rejoice whose souls You keep.
Trusting, we exult with praise, joyf’ly singing all our days,
joyf’ly singing all our days!

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth was in need of revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today is in need of revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from theNew King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are fromThe Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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