Having considered marriage and weeping and rejoicing in this passing world (I Cor. 7:29-30), we now turn to the proper use of our possessions and the world itself (30-31).
Since "the time is short" (29), "they that buy [should be] as though they possessed not" (30). This does not mean that we do not own things by purchase and legal right. But all our possessions—clothes, books, car, house, and so on, including whatever we value most highly—will pass away. For "the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10). In all our shopping and with everything that we own, we need to take account of this. Those who believe that "they that buy [should be] as though they possessed not" will not run up crippling debts on their credit cards nor hoard up their treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-24) nor fret and worry about what they shall eat or drink or wear (25-34).
Because "the fashion of this world passeth away," we must "use this world, as not abusing it" (I Cor. 7:31). Abusing the world includes polluting it and sinfully exploiting it out of selfishness and greed. Though not "abusing" it, we are to "use" this world. Here monkery and Anabaptist world-flight are condemned (5:10). We must use the world for the purposes for which the Most High has given it, filling it and exercising godly dominion over it (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:1-7), as prophets, priests and kings glorifying Jehovah. Even eating and drinking are to be done "to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31; Gen. 1:29-30; 9:2-3; I Tim. 4:1-6). In this life, our calling is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as His stewards, in singleness or marriage and in all our relationships, in every sphere and institution in which God has placed us. To use this world as an end in itself—worldiness!—is "abusing" it. Against this the brute creation itself protests indignantly: "God made me for His glory; you must use me to serve Him!" (cf. Rom. 8:18-22). Right use of the world and everything in it is using it to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33); anything else is abusing it.
This instruction that "the time is short" and that "the fashion of this world passeth away" and its calling regarding marriage, weeping, rejoicing, buying, and using this world (I Cor. 7:29-31) ought to feature in the Christian’s worldview. We must use passages like this to think biblically about time, history and eschatology; the creation, its institutions and everything in it; and the believer’s culture in the home, in the market, in the workplace and in the state.
The Christian’s zealous and active life in God’s creation flows from the electing, regenerating and sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ and is guided by the sacred Scriptures. Obedience to the Word in an ungodly world, though blessed by God, brings persecution from the wicked.
The true children of Abraham, in both Old and New Testament days, are "heirs with him of the same promise" (Heb. 11:9) of the heavenly city and country. Thus, like him, we look "for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (10) and we "desire a better country, that is, an heavenly" (16). Emulating father Abraham, we "sojourn" in this world (9) and confess that we are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (13) and "declare plainly that [we] seek [the heavenly] country" (14). Those without this hope and confession are not Abraham’s seed, for God is "ashamed to be called their God" (16).
Thus a truly Christian worldview does not negate the believers heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20). It is precisely as one who is "dead," whose "life is hid with Christ in God," who seeks "those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" and sets his "affection on things above [and] not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:1-3), that the believer is quickened and motivated to live in every sphere of life to which the Most High has called him in the consciousness, comfort and service of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must do all to the glory of God now, "while it is day," for "the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). "The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober" (I Peter 4:7).
As regards "Christian Singleness and Marriage" (our theme for I Corinthians 7), this teaching about the brevity of time and the passing away of the fashion of this world has at least two further applications. First, it is of comfort to those in a bad marriage (including those in a mixed marriage). Christian spouses can grow in obedience in their God-given roles, with the husband loving his wife as himself and the wife reverencing her husband (Eph. 5:33). Through your prayers and godly example, your spouse’s behaviour may well improve. The submissive, chaste behaviour of a wife—no nagging!—may even be used to convert her unbelieving husband (I Peter 3:1-6). But even if there is no improvement, you must serve the Lord in your marriage, remembering that Christ comes quickly to reward His people (Rev. 22:12). Second, I Corinthians 7:29-31 is a warning to those (either married or desirous of marriage) who make an idol of marriage. Marriage is a good gift of God, a blessed union between one man and one woman, and a picture of Christ and His church. But for all this, it is temporary and will be superseded by a far greater consummation in the world to come.
- Volume: 10
- Issue: 19
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851