5. Celibacy, divorce and marriage, 7:1-40
v] Celibacy, 7:25-40
b) Authentic Christian livingArgument
Continuing with the issue of celibacy, Paul seeks to give his readers advice on the right way to handle "the things of the world." Paul pushes past the issue of the single, as opposed to the married life, and draws out a life-principle - in view of the impending distress believers need to focus on eternal verities.
i] Context: See 7:25-28.
ii] Background: See 7:6-9.
iii] Structure: Authentic Christian living:
Paul's instructions on celibacy
Explanation of "troubles in this life", v28:
Prophetic observation, v29a:
"the time is short".
those who have as if ....
those who mourn as if ...
those who are happy as if ...
those who buy as if ....
those who use as if ....
"for the present form of this world is passing away."
It seems likely that the five eternal verities are prophetic in nature; they reflect on what will be rather than what is. This present age, which we experience in our day-to-day life, sometimes in the midst of great trouble, is passing away. The Corinthians were experiencing the "birth-pangs" of the coming kingdom of God - the dawning of the new age and the passing away of the old. So, Paul gives a description of this new age to encourage his readers to lift their eyes from their present troubles to the glory of the age to come.
If this approach is correct then the five verities are not imperatives, even though most translations handle the passage this way, as NIV, etc. (See to loipon iJna kai below; the Gk. is tricky with iJna possibly serving as an imperative). Taken as a statement of what will be, rather than what should be, we end up with something like the CEV translation: "The Lord will soon come, and it won't matter if you are married or not. It will be all the same if you are crying or laughing, or if you are buying or are completely broke. It won't make any difference how much good you are getting from this world, or how much you like it. This world as we know it is now passing away."
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 7:29a
Authentic Christian Living, v29-31: In this critical moment of human history, a person's state, whether married or unmarried, is of little consequence; what matters is eternal verities.
i]. Paul begins by establishing an important principle. The age that we are part of is a critical time in human history. Yes, it is "short", passing away, transient, although the point that Paul is making is that "the time is critical" rather than "short." This is the moment in human history when all people can come to know the living God in Christ. The importance of this fact impacts on how we view our world, including our marriage.
touto de fhmi "what I mean" - but this i say [brothers]. Here touto, "this", references forward, with de being transitional. The sense is to underline a new point rather than explain a previous one, so, "Let me underline this truth brothers."
oJ kairoV (oV) "the time" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Possibly "chronological time", or better, "a specific quality of a particular period of time", Cullmann. This "particular time" is a time of opportunity, as against the movement / passing of time.
sunestelmenoV estin "is short" - has been shortened, wrapped up, limited. The participle with the verb "to be" forms a periphrastic perfect. Possibly "shortened", if the time in question is chronological, so prompting a translation "the Lord will soon come", CEV, but better "limited", "special", when the time in question is qualitative. "Critical time", Thiselton; so "this is a critical time."
ii] Eternal Verities, v29b-31a. As far as Paul is concerned, being either married, or unmarried, is not really the issue. Grasping the substance of this critical moment in time is what matters. So, life will go on for all of us, either married or unmarried, but our central focus in this journey must be Christ; we must focus on eternal verities.
iJna + subj. "-" - that [from now on both the ones having wives may be / will be as not having]. As noted above, many commentators argue for a rare imperatival use of hina with the subjunctive, cf., Zerwick #213, Nunn #183. This usage is common in classical Gk. , but not Koine Gk., "let those having wives be as if not having" = "those who have wives should be as those who have none", Cassirer; see Garland, etc. It is far more likely that this construction is adverbial, possibly final, although better consecutive expressing result; "the time is short with the result that from now on both the ones having wives might be as the ones not having." See Fee, Barnett.
to loipon adv. "from now on" - rest, remaining, finally / since, therefore, so, henceforth. The articular adverb is probably temporal, "henceforth" = "in the age to come." Possibly inferential, "since that is so", Barclay, although "Since" would better commence a new sentence.
kai .... "-" - both .... and ..... and ..... Introducing a correlative series; the five eternal verities.
oi econteV (ecw) pres. part. "those who have [wives]" - the ones having [wives]. The participle serves as a substantive.
w\sin (eimi) pres. subj. "should live" - may be. Deliberative subjunctive.
wJV "as if" - Comparative, here expressing manner. A married person, possessed by / engrossed in / absorbed by, their marriage, will be as if not married. Note the parallelism of mourn / rejoice and buy / use.
mh econteV (ecw) pres. part. "they do not" - the ones not having. The participle serves as a substantive.
Paul continues his list of "live as if ....." He is not advocating some form of asceticism, some form of Stoic apathy. In fact, in Romans 12:15 he tells us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. Nor is Paul telling us to have no contact with the world, no dealings with the world, no buying or using, no possessing or trading. His simply warns us not to be absorbed in the things of the world, "engrossed in them", as if the world and all that is in it is other than transient.
oiJ klaionteV (klaiw) pres. part. "those who mourn" - [and] the ones weeping, crying. The participle serves as a substantive. Note the reversal of Jesus' words, Lk.6:21b, 25b. Those who mourn, as those who rejoice.
wJV "as if [they did not]" - as, like [not the ones weeping]. Comparative, expressing manner. "As those not mourning."
oiJ caironteV (cairw) pres. part. "those who are happy" - [and] the ones rejoicing [as not rejoicing]. The participle serves as a substantive.
oi agorazonteV (agorazw) pres. part. "those who buy something" - the ones buying. The participle serves as a substantive.
mh kateconteV (katecw) pres. part. "[as if] it were not theirs to keep" - [as if] not possessing. The participle serves as a substantive.
oiJ crwmenoi (craomai) pres. part. "those who use" - the ones using, making use of. The participle serves as a substantive. "Those who are involved in the world's business", Barclay.
ton kosmon (oV) "the things of the world" - the world. Here with a negative, rather than neutral sense, ie. the world's power to entangle and disarm.
wJV "as if" - Comparative, as above.
mh katacrwmenoi (katacraomai) pres. part. "not engrossed in them" - the one not making full use of to the utmost, occupying their entire attention. The participle serves as a substantive.
iii] Explanation: Paul concludes in the last part of this verse with a profound observation. We should not be absorbed in the things of the world for they are "passing away." He may not actually be saying the world itself is passing away, although this is true, but rather that the fabric of human society has no permanence. Sensual desire, human fun and tragedy, commerce, politics.... all that we put so much weight on, has little substance or permanence. All are but shadows that flee in the night. All that is so precious to us of this age "passes like an actor leaving the stage." It is for this reason, as Martin Luther put it, we must "not sink too deeply into it either with love and desire, or suffering and boredom, but should rather behave like guests." Or, with less profound words: "This world ain't my home, I'm just passin' thru."
gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the five eternal verities are worth focusing on, namely, because this age is passing away..
tou kosmou (oV) gen. "[this] world" - [the form] of [this] world. The genitive is adjectival, attributed, where the substantive schma, "form", limits the genitive kosmou, "world", or possibly partitive; "the world as we know it", TEV
to schma (a atoV) "in its present form" - the outward form, appearance, shape. "A facade which, as it shifts, leaves nothing of its own which is stable or solid", Calvin. "The present scheme of things", Phillips.
paragei (paragw) pres. "is passing away" - is passing by. The use of the present tense indicates that this process has begun. The sense is of transience more than disintegration; "the external structures of this world are slipping away", Thiselton. "Nothing in this physical world seen and experienced by our physical senses has any enduring character - including marriages, weepings, rejoicings, possessions, and business opportunities. The fabric of life is just that, a fabric, frayed and flimsy, and nothing eternal", Garland. The fabric of our world "passes like an actor leaving the stage", Hering.