To Marry or Not To Marry? 1 Corinthians 7
In 1 Corinthians 7, we find out that apparently, the church of Corinth had written a letter to Paul concerning some matters. One of the matters that they had written about is that they wanted his view of the relationship between a man and a woman. It appears that the statement in the first verse is among the things that they had written to Paul about. They had a saying or teaching in the church along the lines of this statement. “It is good for a man not to have relations with a woman.”
It may seem strange that the Corinthian church would write to Paul and ask him about marriage relationships since most people hold to the belief that Paul was not married during his ministry. Although, there is good reason to believe that Paul was married at some point in his life and became a widower before his conversion to Christianity. The reason many come to this conclusion is that it was the common practice for Pharisees to be married, especially those that were higher up in the system. If that is the case then Paul would be the perfect person to speak about such an issue of marriage, remarriage, and remaining single.
“But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually — except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
1 Corinthians 7:2-5 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/1co.7.2-5.hcsb )
In the following verse, Paul goes on to say that he wishes that all could remain single to focus on their relationship with God and the ministry of the church. Paul gives the reason for marriage is that if we are too weak to avoid sexual immorality, so we should marry to avoid sin. Paul isn’t saying that married people can not have a vibrant relationship with God or be deeply involved in ministry. He is simply pointing out that when we are married we will have to take time to focus on the marriage relationship that we could be spending focused on the things of God. This is especially true with families that have children in the home.
Paul isn’t saying that this type of relationship is bad, only that it will take our time and focus away from what is more important. If you can avoid sexual impurity then perhaps being single and dedicating your entire life to God is what God might be calling you to. But, if you find yourself constantly falling into sexual impurity, even within your mind, then you should look to marry to avoid sin.
Paul also points out that within a marriage relationship you are to give yourself to your wife or husband. You have become one and should seek to serve and give yourself to your spouse. The purpose of this is so that you or your spouse doesn’t fall into sexual sin. I have seen many times where one or both in a marriage have ignored each other physically many times resulting in the marriage ends because one or both have been unfaithful. This is why Paul says not to deprive one another sexually.
He goes on to explain that the married should not divorce and if they do then they should remain unmarried or be reconciled together. Paul also says that if you are married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever is willing to remain married to you, then you are to remain married in the hopes that you will be able to lead them to Christ. There are other reasons in scripture for getting a divorce, like being unfaithful, but Paul’s concern here is not with unfaithfulness. He is concerned with married people looking for an excuse to leave the relationship and feeling justified before God. Divorce is something that Christians should seek to avoid.
Paul ends this chapter by addressing single people and widows saying if you have self-control you should remain single and serve the Lord
“I want you to be without concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord — how he may please the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 7:32 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/1co.7.32.hcsb )
Paul’s view here seems to not fit with our current cultural expectations. Our families and culture expect that once you finish school it’s time to get married and start a family. The pressure is more on young women than on young men. Oftentimes, those that remain single will be viewed as if something is wrong with them. This is something that should be fixed in the Christian community. We should understand that God has called some to remain single so that their concerns will be about the things of the Lord.
If you are married, don’t look to be unmarried. If you are single, don’t look to get married. But no matter your situation serve the Lord with all you are.