To Marry or Not?
Paul wrote, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.“
“5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:1-9).
“The Present Distress”
Paul’s statement “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1) cannot be used to justify celibacy as a morally better way of life (Romans 7:2–4; 1 Timothy 4:1–3). Paul made it clear that his advice for the single life is mainly due to practical reasons such as the persecution that the early church experienced: “I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is” (1 Corinthians 7: 26).
In the days of persecution, some Christians would be imprisoned or put to death. Families would suffer as some of the members would be taken into exile for their testimony. Under these situations, Paul counseled that it would be a better plan to remain single. Nevertheless, he was careful to differentiate between commandments from the Lord and his own advice to the church (1 Corinthians 7: 8, 10, 12, 25).
Celibacy and Marriage
Paul made an important difference between being single and being called to the celibate life. He said, if you’re single and aren’t called to the celibate life, you should think about the option of getting married. Singleness depends on certain factors, such as inability to find a mate, death of a spouse, difficulties in life, lack of finances, etc. However, celibacy is a calling. It’s a gift that God gives only to a select few (Matthew 19:10-12; I Corinthians 7:7).
Paul added, “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you” (1 Corinthians 7:27,28).
Thus, the apostle didn’t release the married persons of their duties. He instructed that even in times of difficulties there must be no neglect of the duties that falls upon married persons. They are obligated to continue in the marriage relation. And they should trust in God to care for them.
While some prefer to remain single, and have the ability to live a satisfactory life without marriage, others prefer to follow the normal plan for life on this earth, and enter the married state. Both courses are approved by the Lord when carried out in harmony with His counsel.
Without a doubt, Paul recommended marriage as a protection against fornication (1 Corinthians 7: 2). He taught that marriage is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). And he didn’t deny the positive benefits that marriage grants to the saints (Matthew 19:12). It would be inconsistent for the apostle to teach that it is not right for a man to marry under any circumstances, and then in a letter to another church, give marriage as an example of the loving bond that exists between the Savior and His church (Ephesians 5:22–27).
In His service,