Tag: Marriage

What is the deal with getting married?

by on Dec.07, 2008, under Bible Study, Reflection

The Bible is an intensely practical book. Whenever it reveals a truth it also gives us a cue as to how to live according to that truth. This afternoon we are going to look at a small portion of what the Bible teaches about marriage, and from that try to answer the very practical question: When, if ever, should I get married?

Before I read to you from 1 Corinthians 7, just a quick comment about the word ‘virgin’. Paul uses this word to refer to those who have never been married – as opposed to those who have married and then been widowed. In his eyes that also people who had never had sex (and hopefully that’s the way you see it too!) but it is their marital status that he is emphasising rather than their sexual experience.

The Master did not give explicit direction regarding virgins, but as one much experienced in the mercy of the Master and loyal to him all the way, you can trust my counsel. Because of the current pressures on us from all sides, I think it would probably be best to stay just as you are. Are you married? Stay married. Are you unmarried? Don’t get married. But there’s certainly no sin in getting married, whether you’re a virgin or not. All I am saying is that when you marry, you take on additional stress in an already stressful time, and I want to spare you if possible.

I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.

I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.

If a man has a woman friend to whom he is loyal but never intended to marry, having decided to serve God as a ‘single,’ and then changes his mind, deciding he should marry her, he should go ahead and marry. It’s no sin; it’s not even a “step down” from celibacy, as some say. On the other hand, if a man is comfortable in his decision for a single life in service to God and it’s entirely his own conviction and not imposed on him by others, he ought to stick with it. Marriage is spiritually and morally right and not inferior to singleness in any way, although as I indicated earlier, because of the times we live in, I do have pastoral reasons for encouraging singleness.

     – 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 (The Message)

On first reading this passage seems quite negative towards marriage – and it is! Paul is at pains to point out how much effort marriage is, and how it requires more effort and energy than the single life – things that could just as easily be devoted towards God. How do we reconcile this with Paul’s teachings on marriage elsewhere, where he paints a much rosier picture? I believe that the key is to recognise that Paul’s highest priority is to serve and honour God. ‘All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions’ (35).

But if serving God is the priority, why would anyone ever get married? Why did I? The simple answer is that I reached a point where I was better able to serve and honour God as a married man than as a single. After I met Katrie I found that increasing amounts of my time, energy and affection were being directed towards her… and less towards God. This was a real dilemma because I wanted to serve God but my attention was divided and that was not honouring to him. Paul wrote that ‘when you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master’ (32) but that was no longer true for me.

After much prayer I realised that the answer was marriage. Not because it would reduce my distraction but rather because it redeemed it. God had entrusted me with the task of caring for Katrie; being married meant that I could serve my wife and serve God at the same time. The service that God required and continues to require of me is to love and serve my wife (and, soon, my child!).

Sometimes getting married will not help to honour God. For example getting married to someone who is not a Christian will certainly not be helpful in this regard. Similarly if you are marrying because you think it is the ‘right thing to do’, because you’re afraid of ‘ending up single’ or because you want to have sex then your marriage will be on very shaky foundations and this will not be honouring to God.

So the first thing to consider in deciding whether or not to marry is a theological question: will marriage help me to honour God or not? But once that question is answered there is another to follow: is now a good time for me to marry? Are you finishing your studies or trying to establish a career? Probably not a good time to be getting married. Are you financially placed to be married? Marriage is not a great place for brand new Christians either. The wrong answers to any of these questions should act as a red flag; this is not to say you definitely shouldn’t get married but you should definitely get godly council from mature Christians who know you well.

I believe that Paul’s instruction in this chapter is clear: wherever you are, whatever your situation in life is, seek to honour God. If you are married, honour God in your marriage; if single serve him in your singleness; if studying study for his glory; if working then work as an act of worship. Don’t spend your time wishing you were married, unmarried etc. especially not because some religious nut-job tells you that ‘all Christians are called to be X'; Paul reminds us that serve God where you are. And if the time comes where getting married will aid you in serving God better – go for it!

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.

     – 1 Corinthians 7:17 (The Message)


One of your friends says marriage is a waste of time, and it’s better to stay single so as to be better able to serve God; another says every Christian should get married because it honours God. What would you say to each of them?

Read 1 Cor. 7:25-38 again. What is your initial reaction to that passage? What is Paul teaching us about marriage? Does he see it as a good thing or not?

What is Paul’s main reason for arguing against marriage in this passage? (See particularly v. 32). What are some of the concerns that marriage brings?

What are some of the things that you should consider before getting married? Imagine you have a close friend who is considering getting married – what would you say to him or her?

Read 1 Cor. 7:12-16. These verses are directed towards people who are already married when one of them becomes a believer – but what about those who are not yet married? Some people marry a non-Christian believing that this may bring about the conversion of their new spouse. Is this a good idea? Why?

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