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Interpreting Apparent Contradictions

Today’s reading: Psalm 128-131; I Corinthians 7:25-40

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.                                                                              Psalm 128:3-4

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.                                                                                                I Corinthians 7:29-31

To understand the Bible properly, the reader needs to observe principles of interpretation, especially, the principles of reading passages in context and seeking to let the whole Bible comment on specific passages.

The psalmist paints another lovely picture, a picture of the family of a godly man, one who fears God. Even in a fallen world, it is possible to see glimpses of life in an unfallen world where a husband fears God and God blesses him in every aspect of his life. This man is a husband and father. His wife and children are an evidence of the goodness and blessing of God poured out on His life. Who would not love to have a family like this or be a member of a family like this?

When we turn to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we get a quite different message. Paul does not paint such a peaceful picture of marriage and family life. Indeed, he says that marriage brings concerns that occupy and distract people with anxieties. It would be ideal, he says, for single or betrothed people to remain as they are and to give themselves in “undivided devotion to the Lord.”   Rather than holding up traditional family life as the epitome of God’s blessing, Paul sees it as an obstacle to focused service for the Lord.

So, which is it? Is the biblical view that marriage is a blessing or that marriage is a distraction to the believer? The answer is “it depends.” Paul himself does not prohibit marriage, but neither does he suggest that one cannot be fulfilled personally and extremely fruitful in the Lord’s work without being married (1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:3-4). In fact, Paul gives us the analogy of the relationship of Christ and the Church as that of a man and his bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). Certainly, the Scriptures never demean marriage, but individuals who are making decisions about whether or not to marry or to assume other kinds of responsibilities ought to consider the impact of those responsibilities on their freedom to be available to God for His service. Use wisdom. See the whole picture of what the Bible teaches on any matter before jumping to conclusions.

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