How to Give Good Advice
The Corinthians wrote Paul asking for his advice about certain marriage
situations among them. 1 Corinthians 7 is Paul’s response, which teaches us not
just about marriage, but about how to give good advice to those who ask us.
Start with Scripture. “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord):
the wife should not separate from her husband”(1 Cor 7:10). This was Jesus’
word, and it is where Paul begins. All his advice should be understood as an
application of Jesus’ teaching. “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he
lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes,
only in the Lord”(1 Cor 7:39). The scriptural principle is Paul’s first step in
addressing their questions.
Distinguish between Scripture and opinion. “Now concerning the betrothed, I have
no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy
is trustworthy. I think…”(1 Cor 7:25-26). Throughout the chapter Paul makes
clear distinctions: “not I, but the Lord”(v. 10) and “I, not the Lord”(v. 12).
“Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is”(1 Cor 7:40). We
must know that what we think is not the same as Scripture, and we must be sure
those we are advising grasp the difference as well. Not following Scripture is
sin; not following my advice is not.
Give options. Paul’s opinion is clear: he doesn’t think people should marry (v.
8). Yet he acknowledges that other factors are involved: “If they cannot
exercise self-control, they should marry”(v. 9). Good advice is not “my way or
the highway” advice.
Think about it from their perspective. Paul thinks about several situations he
has never been in: married to an unbeliever (v. 12-16), troubles of married life
(v. 28), and the difficulties of marriage in persecution (v. 29-31). His advice
is “not to lay any restraint upon you”(v. 35), but “for your own benefit”. He is
kind and careful, promoting orderly marriages, steadfast devotion to Christ, and
careful thinking about how relationships affect our faith. But he is never harsh
and demanding, nor does he give advice he would never follow himself.
Good advice is hard to give, especially for young people. Yet God’s word, the
source of all wisdom, and a caring heart, can equip us well for the work.
From Expository Files 18.9; September 2011